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Michael considered fate at 21:26   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
How to Destroy
Brand-New Cars
in a planned, industrial, streamlined process like only the global economy could:
It took more than a year to devise a plan that satisfied everyone. The city of Portland [Oregon] wanted assurance that nearly 5,000 cars' worth of antifreeze, brake fluid and other hazardous goop wasn't mishandled. Insurers covering Mazda's losses wanted to be sure the company wouldn't resell any cars or parts -- thereby profiting on the side. So every steel-alloy wheel has to be sliced, every battery rendered inoperable, and every tire damaged beyond repair. All CD players must get smashed..

.. Moments later, metal shards -- most no bigger than an ashtray -- sprinkle onto a mountain of scrap near Schnitzer's dock. There, a freighter prepares to take the scrap back to Asia where it will get recycled.

Mr. Wilson looks on and concludes: "It'll all probably end up coming back as cars."

"We begin to die as soon as we are born, and the end is linked to the beginning."

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust"

"You know, you come from nothing - you're going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!"


The Rise and Fall of the American Rural Town
Michael considered fate at 17:26   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
I stumbled upon this interesting map reading a Yahoo! Finance analysis of Obama's recent talk on rural Americans. I haven't really paid any attention to the discussion his speech generated, but if you know me you know I love maps. Have at it:


Pine Point
Michael considered fate at 16:19   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
It wasn't as warm as we would have liked and it wasn't as sunny either, but a trip to the beach is a trip to the beach.

This trip included some kite boarding - both land and sea.

As well as animals of the human, canine, and equine persuasions.

And a lotta shithawks.

Why? Because I said so..
Michael considered fate at 14:42   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

Question, is there any actual reason to believe carbon trading will *reduce* energy usage? Doesn't it seem like we're just pushing our problem on some other poor bastard to assuage our culpability? Kinda like, instead of eating your peas, you spread them out over the whole plate, and it *seems* like you've gotten rid of them.
Taxing *emissions*. $40/ton, but that's just me. 

Right, I completely agree with you. But that's just my point - the straught tax idea will never happen because industry wouldn't have it. The whole idea of a carbon credits system, on the other hand, is that it is in fact a system, which almost by definition can be corrupted. This is the politicians saying to big industry: "Look, we have this problem with the people whining about the environment, so here is a complex system that you can game while we look the other way and you can line our campaign coffers with gold-plated tinfoil." 
Like, lots and lots of foamy bubbles. Really - that's a lot!

Like, yet another soon-to-be failure of a house bill on marijuana legalization sponsored by Barney Frank and Ronny Paul. Puff.. puff.. NOT PASSED.

One last thing: even the folks who said they thought the climate was in trouble over the last few years are saying they were wrong: it's much worse. Okay, I'm baiting. It's a London economist waxing on about the impending doom of a smoggy future, the consumer nations' over-reliance on coal, and the important part that carbon capture and sequestration will have to play if we expect to be breathing Earth's air in 2050. Blah, blah, blah, it's been said, heard, forgotten, and ignored before and it will be again. I do think one important point is made, though:
A global carbon trading system would be the "glue" for a worldwide climate deal
I've discussed carbon trading before and if you're familiar with my opinions on it then you know I think it is one more layer of complexity through which "mandated corruption" will proliferate. Nevertheless, I agree that there is potential for a worldwide system to act as a stepping stone towards adoption of other global initiatives, as well as collaboration across nations.


Suburban blight: The cost of transportation
Michael considered fate at 10:24   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
The Center for Neighborhood Technology has an interesting mapping tool up on their website that allows you to combine transportation costs with housing costs to get a better idea of the suburban versus urban decision that many have to make due to financial concerns.
The traditional vision of housing affordability maintains that housing generally becomes more affordable the farther one ventures from the urban center. However, the study has found that transportation costs increase dramatically in suburban and exurban areas, due to dispersed employment, retail, and other amenities.

CNT President, Scott Bernstein explains, “The index tells an alternative story of affordability than we’ve become accustomed to hearing. The real estate pages may list 2- and 3-bedroom homes for under $175,000 in suburban communities. That sounds affordable, right? But once you factor in transportation costs, the bargain goes away. Transportation costs can be as much or more than housing costs. The index protects consumers by divulging those costs and helps planners and decision-makers work toward providing truly affordable housing.”
Given what gas prices have done since the late 90's, there is no question that transportation can have a large impact on a suburbanite's budget.. but mix that in with pricier cars and the importance of "bling" like those 22s some soccer mom's need to "keep it real" and, well, no wonder suburban life doesn't look so peachy.

But can transportation costs really be more than housing costs!? Let me work out a what-if for an imaginary Dude:

Average miles driven per year : 20,000 - sure, this might sound like a lot to some but if you've spent any time outside of urban areas in Maine or other rural states, you know that you gotta drive a lot to get where you're going.

Average cost of gas per gallon: $3.20 - arbitrarily chosen as somewhere close to the current price in Maine. I'll arbitrarily choose 24 mpg as my fuel efficiency too.

Average Insurance premium per year: $900 - This, admittedly, can vary a lot but I'm splitting the difference between what I pay ('95 Saab with liability only) and a friend with payments who must fully insure his Scion.

Car Payment cost per year: $3600 - this is pretty low-ball. I figured on $300/month for a total of $3600 a year. I'll ignore all costs to maintain the car right now, to compensate for the fact that you may sell it for a little cash some day. Again, I'm being generous.

Housing cost: $7980 - I pay this in rent in an urban area for a nicer-than-average apartment with a bathroom for each bedroom. Housing costs in the more suburban and rural areas where you would be if you were clocking 20,000 miles a year are often significantly less, so I'm being generous here.

Total yearly transportation cost: $7166.. Not more than the housing cost, but getting close. Of course I didn't factor in heat, electricity, and other bills which would certainly push housing well above. But whether it is more or less is mostly irrelevant. It's the addition of transportation costs that hurts. I know more than one person getting by without a vehicle in the reasonably small urban area of Portland here in Maine (and don't forget we have winters to deal with). Convienent? Not all of the time. But if they can avoid $7000 a year in transportation costs, how does that change the way they live their life? What becomes important? Is a $200 car rental on the occasional weekend such a real cost that one can't overlook the $7000 a year vehicle?


Top 50 Soccer Goals
Michael considered fate at 13:19   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

They were a good bunch of goals I like the 10 best. 
It's Friday afternoon and you're staring at your computer screen, wondering why the day won't just end so you can get your happy hour on, and lamenting the upcoming shitshow of weekend weather (well, at least if you're where I am you are). So what do you do? Plan for twenty-two minutes of soccer gold: The Top 50 Soccer Goals as decided by.. some random guy on the internet.


Michael considered fate at 14:37   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Amid a crushing economic downturn, with the next president of the United States set to be selected in half a year, a war raging in Iraq, and after Chuck Heston's recent death...

This is what counts for news these days:
The Absolut vodka company apologized Saturday for an ad campaign depicting the southwestern U.S. as part of Mexico amid angry calls for a boycott by U.S. consumers
I'm going to go ahead and guess that the angry calls are coming from the same U.S. consumers that used to laugh at "pave over the middle east and put up a McDonald's" jokes back in the day.

If this country can't dig itself up a decent sense of humor sometime soon, we might all be doomed.

Michael considered fate at 11:55   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
The Clinton's open their books, and they open with this line:
According to the most recent data available from the IRS, in 2005 taxpayers earning $10,000,000 or more paid on average 20.8% of their adjusted gross income in taxes.
While the low figure is likely a result of the low tax rate on long term capital gains, and rich folk gots them some monies on which to earn long term capital gains, that doesn't necessarily make me feel any better about it.

At least the Clinton's paid 33%... on their ~$13 million a year since 2000.


Penny Dreadful
Michael considered fate at 14:32   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Breaking stride to pick up a penny, if it takes more than 6.15 seconds, pays less than the federal minimum wage.

At least you won't get taxed on it.

Whether or not the United States ever does drop the penny, Congress will presumably have to do something about the nickel, which now costs almost a dime to make.

Michael considered fate at 13:34   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

This does not surprise me. 
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation's Report Card, found that 57% of 8th graders are at a basic writing level and 13% are below that. Proficient, a term I would associate with the phrase "lowest acceptable level" is above the basic level. Only 3 out of 10 8th graders can write at that acceptable level or higher.

The next time you are in a room with a lot of people look around and remind yourself that a) a majority of them have probably not read anything significant in weeks (like, say, even the newspaper) and b) most of them would have trouble understanding compound interest, and c) forming a well written sentence would be difficult for a large number of them.


Michael considered fate at 09:29   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
Richard Florida, the Ray Liotta lookalike I've mentioned before, has a new and interesting singles map up on his blog. It indicates urban areas with disparities in the number of single men versus single women. New York, and the east coast cities in general, are more likely to have a glut of single women whereas the west coast has a deficit of them. Rarer still? An even ratio:
Greater Boston is unusual among large metro areas. It is one of the very few with a near perfect balance of singles - having just 1,600 or so more women than men - 604,960 men to 606,580 women. And this may be part of the reason why the region ranks third for young singles on a ranking of more than 150 metro regions my team and I compiled. The entire region surrounding Boston and its immediate suburbs does well, too. Worcester; Portland, Maine; and Portsmouth-Manchester, N.H., also score among the top five for singles among small-medium-sized regions nationwide.
What is not mentioned, of course, is the relative weights of these numbers. A surplus of 210,000 women in the New York-Northern New Jersey area is less than 2% of the population, hardly a large disparity. A surplus of 2500 in Portland, Maine, however, is closer to 4%. What would have been nice is a map with relative differences, not actual differences.

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Check out heroecs, the robotics team competition website of my old supervisor's daughter. Fun stuff!
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