Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

Political musings from someone who thinks the S-D curve is more important to politics than politicians.

Month: January, 2012


Fitchburg woman and daughter ‘terrified’ as saw rips down door after getting wrong address in drug sweep (h/t)

About 10 FBI agents came into her apartment at 391 Elm St., that morning, guns drawn and pointed at her. There was no knock, and they didn’t shout that they were from the FBI until after the saw was buzzing through her six-panel front door, she said.

She believes it took about three minutes for them to saw a big rectangle through the door, then kick in the center.

This is just bizarre. In three minutes someone in the back room could grab a rifle or a shot-gun, load up the ammo, and start firing at whomever was holding the chain saw. Or, if folks were in the back, they had three minutes to plan their escape.

Forceful entry without announcing who you are (a “no knock” entry) is done when the element of surprise is required. But how in the name of God Almighty is standing around waiting for some guy to go through with a chain saw a “surprise?” Three minutes of standing around waiting to get through a door is not a “surprise.” It’s an eternity.

Shit, if they were in Texas, that’s enough time to slip out the back, go to the corner gun store, buy a shotgun and ammo, go back to the apartment, and open fire on the officer with the chain saw before he’s had a chance to finish cutting the hole in the door.

Someone has some explaining to do…


Another argument for home ownership.

Disturbing Trend: Condo owners told they can’t charge their EVs

As we recently found out after driving a 2011 Nissan Leaf for a week, the availability of electrical outlets can be a major downer on EV ownership. Our test car spent a week in the Phoenix, AZ area, and was parked overnight in a covered parking garage. No problem, since there were indeed unused outlets in the structure, so we could plug it in. Except that we couldn’t.

It seems the property management company that oversees the garage decided that electric cars were not allowed to draw power. The problem, as so often is the case, came down to monetary concerns. It seems that, without having a way to measure how much power was being consumed by the electric car, management decided it could not accurately charge the driver for any electricity consumed. This is despite the fact that the garage serves a building with tenants that pay the electricity bill.

There is a central irony here. After all, electric vehicles are being targeted increasingly towards younger hip urbanites who believe that sprawl is evil and owning a house in the suburbs is seen negatively.

Yet they’re being sold a product that cannot be fully utilized unless you own your own house in the suburbs.


News You Can Use, Exercise Edition.

More Evidence Support Barefoot Running

Those are the findings of a pair of studies by Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. He found runners who use a forefoot strike face a significantly lower risk of repetitive stress injuries, and barely there running shoes produce more efficient movement than conventional kicks.

Original article links: Foot Strike and Injury Rates in Endurance Runners: a retrospective study. and Effects of Footwear and Strike Type on Running Economy.

(Note: The second report doesn’t interest me as much as the first, and it makes some sense: the front of your foot is nice and flat, while the heel is this round shape–and if you rear strike (as I did while running), there is more chance of rotating your foot wrong as you progress from heel to toe.)

Of course I’m significantly out of shape, so it will take at least six months before I have any conclusive results, but so far these have worked very well for me: I’m not having any knee problems from slight down hill running that caused me to stop running more than a decade ago, and the shoe definitely encourages front-striking while running. (Or, in my case, limp jogging.)

News you can use.

25 Unique Uses for Pantyhose

I am alway dropping small objects like beads and the backs of my earrings on the floor. A simple way to find small lost objects is by placing pantyhose over the head of the vacuum hose, securing it with a rubber band (so the pantyhose don’t get sucked up!), and vacuuming under tables and chairs. The objects are quickly picked up with out getting sucked away into the vacuum!


Only a few people have the foresight to creatively innovate

The Yin and the Yang of Corporate Innovation

Yet while networked communications and marketplace experiments add useful information, breakthrough ideas still come from individuals, not committees. “There is nothing democratic about innovation,” says Paul Saffo, a veteran technology forecaster in Silicon Valley. “It is always an elite activity, whether by a recognized or unrecognized elite.”

Pretty Architecture

Remix House: Rustic Originality Meets Honest Regionalism

Guns, guns, guns!

AND IT SEEMS TO BE WORKING: Law-Abiding Mexicans Taking Up Illegal Guns.

In Mexico, where criminals are armed to the teeth with high-powered weapons smuggled from the United States, it may come as a surprise that the country has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world.

Law-abiding Mexicans who want a gun to defend themselves have no good options. Either they fight government red tape to get a legal permit, or they buy one on the black market.

After an outbreak of violence, one embattled community in northern Mexico called Colonia LeBaron has begun to ask if it’s time for the country to address its gun laws….

Because if you’re under attack now and seconds count, the police are minutes away–and can only act after there is a body to hoist into the back of the coroner’s van.

It is worth noting, by the way, that our country’s first gun control laws came about as a means to protect New York gangs from law-abiding but armed citizens who were part of Big Tim Sullivan’s street muscle, part of a system that was used to maintain his New York political machine.

I’m not advocating, by the way, that everyone should go out and arm themselves. I don’t personally own a gun and have never fired one beyond the BB gun I had growing up. But there are alternatives, even if you live in California. (And while pepper spray is not as ‘final’ as shooting someone in the head, a non-lethal alternative is better than nothing, and has the advantage of not being quite so ‘final’ as accidentally shooting someone in the head.)

Kristen Bell meets a Sloth.

Kristen Bell Has An Emotional Breakdown Over Meeting A Sloth

This is what happens when you get what you’ve always wanted your whole life. And apparently for Kristen Bell, it was to meet a sloth.

Why the Presidential Election Cycle doesn’t interest me a whole lot.

(1) I’m in California. By the time we have our primaries, the GOP selection process will be mostly over. At this point is it sort of over anyway: barring a disaster it will be Mitt Romney, and the primary process is only now deciding how big a seat everyone else will have at the GOP table when it comes time to setting overall policy.

(2) The GOP primaries is an interesting soap opera, and it’s fascinating to watch the candidates not only gain experience battling each other, but refine their message. Mitt Romney is definitely positioning himself where he needs to be to win Republicans in a general election, though the wildcard in all of this is the Internet: how will increased transparency and better communications effect the general election?

But the endless and breathless reporting over the latest polls in some random state asking stupid questions like “will Romney’s business experience hurt him with GOP voters”–it’s all meaningless prattle, designed to fill newspaper inches. I can’t bring myself to care.

(3) And even once we get into the general election, my own personal politics and interests lie with the economy. And while President Obama has certainly messed things up by introducing regulatory uncertainty, which increases long-term perceived risks to businessmen interested in making long-term hiring and purchasing decisions–effectively President Obama’s efforts have been, at best, a minor inconvenience.

The current recession is the latest in a major economic shift to a software and Internet-based economy. As was famously noted, all companies are software companies now; most just don’t know it yet. Those who can make the transition to a software-based business will succeed; those who fail to make the transition will fail. And you can see ripples in this everywhere: from the decimation of music stores by Apple’s iTunes and other on-line offerings, to the rise of Internet retail stores, to the increased use of software to optimize productivity to the use of embedded software in place of discrete circuits in electronic components.

Our President is, at best, along for the ride.

Supply, Demand and Housing in January.

Case Shiller: House Prices fall to new post-bubble lows in November (seasonally adjusted)

S&P/Case-Shiller released the monthly Home Price Indices for November (a 3 month average of September, October, and November). This release includes prices for 20 individual cities and and two composite indices (for 10 cities and 20 cities).

Two reasons why prices drop: either (a) supply is high, or (b) demand is low. With housing, supply may be high because banks are clearing their backlog of “hidden” inventory (by selling REOs and accelerating the foreclosure process)–and to me, that’s a good thing because so long as there is a backlog of distressed housing, the U.S. economy will not make a full recovery.

If demand is low, however, this means a recovery will take longer.

And low and behold, it may very well be (b): Existing Home Inventory declines 17% year-over-year in January

HousingTracker reported that the January listings – for the 54 metro areas – declined 17% from the same month last year. The year-over-year decline will probably start to slow since listed inventory is getting close to normal levels. Also if there is an increase in foreclosures (as expected), this will give some boost to listed inventory.

This is just inventory listed for sale, sometimes referred to as “visible inventory”. There is also a large “shadow inventory” that is currently not on the market, but is expected to be listed in the next few years.

(Note: I originally thought (a), thinking “inventory” was low because houses sold. But “inventory” is houses for sale–supply–rather than what’s left over after all the houses have sold–an indicator of former supply. Of course many other factors drive price: the quality of the houses sold, for example, so this is at best a very poor tea reading.)