Saturday, February 16, 2008

Recession and investing

It seems a recession is coming in the western world. 
But is it time to panic? Maybe not

By the way, it's interesting to me how, if you go to Motley Fool UK, you're met with a host of ideas about how to manage your economy. And if you go to Motley Fool US, you're met with a host of ideas about how to buy and sell stocks. I wonder if this is a reflection of any major difference in mentality between the US and Europe? Like for instance that Americans are more interested in making it big and preferably yesterday, whereas Europeans are more interested in staying with the safer and slower options?

All that being as it may, I used to wonder why it was that so many people are investing in the stock market, people who really don't have the money to invest...
Then I realized that it's simply a form of gambling. Which is alien to me (I'm too chicken), so I did not recognize it. 
And like gambling, the "mark" always believes he has a better chance than others. He always has a System, or a Hot Tip or something, that makes it a Sure Thing. He is sure he will make 50% a year easy. 

But he won't, unless he is as lucky as the next lottery winner. Even the world's most successful investor, Warren Buffet, has only made about 20% over the long range. And he has obviously been both lucky and has used all his time and skill studying the markets. And by the way, he has not generally invested in dark horses, he invested in big solid companies like IBM and AT&T. 

After years of study, what I have grudgingly come to acknowledge, on advice from the world's most knowledgeable people is: there is no market where you can know what is going to happen. And if there is, then everybody else knows it too, and the price is already pushed up. 

One of my sources for this is the book Fail-safe Investing by Harry Browne (recommended by TTL). And Browne was one of the greatest investors and advisors ever. 

Is Solar Power taking off now?

Is Solar Power taking off now?
What's not explained in the article, though, is how Moore's law applies to how much energy can be captured and used by solar panels.

Bert sez:
Solar power does indeed appear to have wind in its sails. It is now hip to talk green, so alternative-power techs get press coverage like they never have before. As a result, there is hardly a week that goes by without some news being released in the field of solar power.

Of course, my skeptical (and sooo cynical) side can't help it but to notice that whenever tycoons get hip, there's always govt. funding waiting to be harvested. Is it only a curious coincidence that the hype starts building up just as the Bush dynasty is nearing its end? Or could it be that there is some genuine hope of a US govt. not so tightly tied to the oil industry?

In any case, some of the news are genuinely exciting. Several new processes are being developed to allow the production of low-cost solar films. Nanosolar even claims that its technology could challenge coal burning, at 1$/Watt, and it's shipping now.

This means that innovative solar-powered products beyond gadgetry are just around the corner. The real revolution may be happening, after all. :-)

I think it's interesting to speculate: say solar power becomes much cheaper than oil and becomes mainstream before 2020. Imagine how different the power structure globally will be in the 21st century...

A Mac addict is born

A Mac addict is born.
I don't spend much time proselytizing the Macintosh these days, because unlike back in the nineties, Apple doesn't need help, they are doing better than ever, and on three platforms too (iPod, iPhone, and Mac). But anyway, here's a cute little story of a... what do they call them? Shifters? Changers?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Family nudity

Mores vary widely regarding families and nudity.

"One father, who works away from home during the week, comes back to his wife and four daughters on Friday night and feels hopelessly out of place. "He keeps asking, rather desperately, 'Is that appropriate?' because we're all wandering about naked," says his wife fondly. "But we don't take any notice of him.""

Pascal said:
I've watched very carefully the many documentaries made on populations that live naked. It seems EVERYBODY gets used to it as naturally as I got used to my cat being naked. :-)
Admittedly, few of them are located in the Arctic Circle...
But do you think the Eskimos sleep in pyjamas, or in anything else? Guess again! Just the collective family/clan's body heat under a very warm fur blanket.

It's all about how we've been educated, and some social taboos we've unnoticingly assimilated. In some countries (Saudi kingdom, Afghanistan...), for a woman to show her bare face in public, or her uncovered hair, is considered nearly as obscene as if she were stark naked.

When you consider it in a purely objective manner, removing from the equation your own society-based educated feelings & reflexes, it becomes astomishing how the protective function of clothes has turned in priority to protection from the gaze of others. How did we become so repressed about our very being?

The legend of Adam & Eve, no matter how naive, bears very deep revelations about the minds that came up with its symbolism. God creates Man and Woman. Creates them butt-nekkid [Gen 2:25] TO HIS IMAGE [Gen 1:27], and blesses them by saying: "Grow and multiply." [Gen 1:28] Translation: it is RECOMMENDED that they have sex to their heart's content. Reminds me of the very revered and fully naked statues or greek and roman gods & goddesses.
Then the humans do the one foolish thing, and all of a sudden they are ashamed of being naked, and they make loincloths with fig leaves. [Gen 3:7] If, like me, you've played with fig leaves as a child, you know the darn things are itchy and have quite an irritant juice. Out of mercy for his creation which can no longer bear to live in innocent nudity, God replaces their awful undies with very nice leather tunics. [Gen 3:21] Quite a kind gesture, from a Father that's just been bitterly disappointed by his offspring for the first time in history. I wonder how much a good leather tunic would cost even today?

Incidentally, there's something odd: in Genesis, Man is authorised to eat all the fruits of the Earth, except that single forbidden one. [Gen 1:29-30] It is only after the flood that the Book of Gusteau also mentions animal flesh. [Gen 9:2-3, 9:7], again advising for lots of sex along the way.
Which means that, either those who came after Adam & Eve killed animals just to skin them, or that everybody else until Noah dressed with vegetal fibers and materials. "Holy Josephine Baker, Batman! That means... it means..." (Robin turns bright red, while the Caped Crusader slowly starts peeling a batanana from his utility belt.)

Even in monotheistic Europe, the uncovered human figure was the subject of fery little fuss until the gloomy austerity of Puritanism started spreading. We must face it, my fellow Earthlings: our current "fashion values" are merely an episode of a history where standards change a lot.

Half Of UK Men Would Swap Sex For 50 Inch TV

Half Of UK Men Would Swap Sex For 50 Inch TV.

What I'm surprised about is that only half of that would swap chocolate for sex.

... Thinking about it, the swap is limited to half a year of sex... perhaps half of men don't foresee any sex to speak of in the next six month, whereas chocolate is a close as the corner store!

Office Live Small Business

This looks interesting for home businesses.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quotes from The Simpsons

Homer: "Mr. Burns, you're the richest man I know."
Mr. Burns: "Ah yes. But I'd trade it all for a little more."

(After his house got demolished in a hurricane)
Ned Flanders: "It's all gone. Gone-diddly-on."

The cusp of the youth rebelion

This was probably very risque in its day.
Cute song.

Also, this girl has the moves.


Monday, February 11, 2008


Above Photo Andreas Feininger.

Bridge City Tool Works and Luminous Landscape

Bridge City Tool Works Foxtail Shoulder Plane commemorative tool.
This is just an astonishing piece of craft.
To really appreciate it, download the PDF brochure (6.5MB) and zoom in on the high-def images.

I heard about it in the latest video journal from Michael Reichman interviews Jay Maisel, a veteran photographer and artist who inhabits the whole of an old bank building, seventy-two rooms filled with his pictures and tools and studios. Amazing.
(I can't believe he owns a whole building in Manhattan, and a building which does not bring any income in itself because he uses it all personally. How does he afford that? Just the property taxes and the heating must be huge.)

TTL said:
"That sure is a nice instrument. But I went to and couldn't find the video you mentioned."

No, considering that the video is supporting the web site, the site navigation lets it down a little, the downloads are not always easy to find (at least I can say that I've had trouble, and I've been buying on the web for over a decade), and the new issue is not mentioned on the main pages for days (at least this time around).
It is here.
And I found it via the News page, which is the best way to keep track of LL, which often has much to interest the serious photographer.

Slanted light

BTW, these were pictures where a tiltable screen would have been the bee's knees, since I composted them at waist height in order not to tilt the vertical lines.

More on the Sigma DP1

[Update: my mistake, it is not about the DP1, it is about the SLR SD-14, which has a similar resolution. I found the link in the middle of an article about the DP1, and I didn't pay enough attention. But it is still about a similar Foveon sensor.]

We talked about the upcoming high-quality Sigma DP1. Here's an interesting test of it. According to this guy, it seems like it actually may have unrivaled image quality for the size of the camera, just like the intention was.

Interestingly, the actual resolution of the files is small by today's standards, "only" 5MP, but the thing is that normal sensors cheat, they have separate little sensor dots for each of the three colors and so they have to extrapolate for each color. The Foveon sensor the Sigma uses does not have that, so the natural resolution picks up more detail per 100 pixels. There's no extrapolation of data.

A nice photo

A nice photo from Manhattan.