Saturday, December 20, 2008

Night and day

Actually, flash and no flash...

This year, with everything going on; we just decided to find a likely-looking victim in our own yard. I think it was actually once a shrub, which went feral since the foliage is identical to some shrubs in the front of our house.

Meenah The Gimp

Getting geared-up for Christmas

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A day of chores around houses...

The first part of the day started out well: I went to my in-laws to put together a couple of chairs they had ordered. It went fine since we had put together the first two over the weekend, so we already knew how. I had thought to save time by bringing my drill and a hacksaw. The chairs are held together by a bunch of Allen bolts, so I planned to sacrifice one wrench to make a bit for the drill. The hacksaw wouldn't make a dent in the wrench though.

After this I helped my Father-in-law put in a new light switch. This was very easy since he had all the tools ready, had purchased the right replacement part and knew which breaker to shut off.

The whole trip was kind of a two-fer since they live right by the hardware store and I needed to go there for a pail of plaster and a new kitchen faucet.

It was once I got home that things started to go South. I have installed new faucets before and am aware of what a pain it is. The main problem is that all the connections are up behind the sink which means that you have hardly any space to work between the wall and the back of the sink--everything is in this dark narrow crevice. The only way to reach it is to lay on your back inside of the cabinet. This is uncomfortable and every bit of rust, debris and water that comes from the work lands right in your face. All of the above was the routine and expected kind of hardship which goes with the job.

The next part was special bonus hardship. The existing couplings were an old fashioned copper compression fit and would have to be bent into the shape of a capitol N to meet with the faucet inlets. A really good plumber could have probably made this work and I tried even though I knew what the outcome would be. So, back to the hardware store for retrofit items. The guys in the store were helpful in that they spent some time trying to line-up the right parts for me, but they really didn't have a clue. After about 30 minutes of poking around, I was pretty sure that I knew what I needed to get. Just then my next-door neighbor (a former plumber) came in, and offered to help. I described the problem and he led me right to the parts I had figured would work. Having a concurring 2nd opinion filled me with confidence and I went home with my parts.

I always face a soldering job with trepidation, but this time it all went easily and quick. The faucet is in and an annoying leak is gone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bernie Madoff and the 50 Billion Dollars

Poof! 50 Billion Dollars have disappeared. Where did they go?

I think it is safe to say that Bernie Madoff does not have a secret vault with 50 Billion in gold, so where is it?

1. The idea of a Ponzi scheme is that early investors make great returns and this encourages more investors to put money in. The problem is that the "gains" of the early investors are paid by the contributions of the latter investors. So some of the loss is just a function of a zero-sum-game: Some people lost money and others gained money.

2. The news stories lack sufficient detail to really know, but I suspect that the 50 Billion amount is not based upon what was payed-in, but rather on the values claimed on investor's statements. This value was always just a fiction, but if you pulled your money out a few months ago they would have payed-out the full statement value.

3. Trading losses: Madoff's company had to put the money somewhere and given the market conditions, they probably did loose whatever money they actually had in real financial markets.

Other thoughts:

Did Bernie Madoff think he could just keep this scam going forever? He did keep it going for decades, so maybe that was in fact his plan. I would have trouble sleeping at night with a plan like that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Five days without power--how about some pretty ice-storm pictures?

A big oak branch crashed to the ground in the back corner of the yard, just as I left for work. The icy coating is very pretty. It looks just like glass. This branch shattered when it hit the ground. It happened just as my wife was trying to get the dog to go out for her morning "rounds".