Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Comments Sections

Typically, I find the comments sections of blogs to be pretty depressing. Once in a while though, I am pleasantly surprised. Here, someone at The Corner posts an article praising the new airport security measures and the people who implement them. Commenters rightly give him what-for.

On the other end of the political spectrum, in this article at Huffington Post, a doctor warns of the horrible dangers of mixing alchohol with caffiene. "Combining alcohol and caffeine is -- in one word -- crazy. Don't do it! It has an excellent chance of hurting you, and a fairly good chance of killing you." Yes, that's right. Rum and Coke, Kaluha and Cream, Irish Coffee... cocktails of death!! His readers let him have it.

In both cases, the comments are pretty satisfying.

Tuition and Fees (II)

Doing some more math...if you put the 4-year cost of a Carleton education, $224,600, into investments, and only got back 3% a year, that would give you an annual benefit of $6,700 per year. In addition, instead of wasting four years paying others, you could easily make $20,000/year at a low-end job. That's $80,000 in your pocket, instead of $224k going out--a swing of over $300,000.

Of course, the $224k number doesn't take into account interest on loans. According to this loan calculator, assuming that Carleton's tuition will be 5% higher next year ($54,715), and an incoming freshman borrowed that entire amount, they will have to pay back $67,920 just for their first year--24% more than the initial loan of $55k. Carrying out the calculations at 24% overall loan interest, and a 5% tuition increase each year, that comes to approximately: $292,700 (Grinnell comes to $265,500).

So would a student whose family saved for college and could cover the cost be better off pocketing the cash?

Would a student who had to borrow $300,000 for a high-end diploma be better off getting a job instead?

Is the piece of paper from Carleton, Grinnell, or another high-end college worth $300,000?

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and fees at Carleton College, my alma mater

Academic Tuition Fees 2010-2011
Tuition: $41,076
Student Activity Fee: $228
Room: $5,676
20 Meal Plan (full board): $5,130
Total Due: $52,110

Absurd. If anyone asked for advice, I'd advise them to go elsewhere. Carleton is a fine school, but it's not worth $52000/year. A state school like Minnesota or Wisconsin would be about 1/3rd of that. I couldn't begin to justify the additional expense of going private.

Ann says: There are only three reasons to go private these days: 1) to get the name on the diploma, 2) choosing a network of friends, 3) being able to graduate in four years instead of 5-6. None of those are worth the $172,500 $224,600 (my math was wrong) Carleton or other high-end privates will cost to get through. (That's assuming 4 years at 5% tuition growth per year--when I was in school, the average increase was 8%.) Grinnell's 4-year cost at 5% growth per year is currently: $203,700.

If a student really has their heart set on a private, they should do a 2-year AB, then transfer in. Even that isn't worth it--especially if you have a soft major. And if you want to do a hard major like math, science, or engineering, you're better off with the larger facilities and opportunities of a state school anyway.

I come down on the side that young adults should walk away from school for a few years to decide what they want to do with their lives. Spending time being aimless at college, and spending a fortune doing it, really doesn't make any sense. You should only go to college these days if you have a real, concrete goal that requires a specific degree. (As long as you don't want to be yet another lawyer!)

Glenn Beck - Nutjob

In case there was any doubt...

I find it difficult to watch more than about 15 seconds of this. Who can stand this guy?

Entropy increases

"'Entropy increase,' as my old friend Huxley used to say, and I've never heard a truer word spoken." ~ Dr. Who (Tom Baker, I think in the episode "Logopolis", 1981)

"Second law of Thermodynamics: The second law of thermodynamics states that the efficiency of a heat engine is always less than 100% and that the entropy of a closed system must always increase."

Every time I think about the rallying cry that the economy will turn around once millions of "green jobs" start popping up, I think of entropy.

Basically, physics says that things will settle into the lowest energy state, and continue to decline--entropy increases. In order to get something into a higher energy state, you have to put in more energy than you will ever get out.

Economic energy flows into the most-efficient means of production. Successful companies maximize their outputs and minimize their inputs--becoming more efficient. Unsuccessful ones will go under and disappear.

The "green jobs" movement's claims go against the laws of thermodynamics. Basically, they say that companies will gladly sign onto what are currently--and will be for the foreseeable future--less-efficient and more-expensive means of production.

Until the green technologies evolve to the point that they offer better efficiency than current forms, adaptation simply can't happen without government force in the form of either laws or subsidies. In the absence of subsidies, the companies that adapt "green" technologies will pay a premium for doing so--will be inherently less efficient and will collapse in favor of more-efficient non-green competitors. If instead of subsidies, the government enacts laws, they then run into the problem that we don't live in a closed domestic market. Non-green competition from abroad would wipe out the less-efficient, but piously green, domestic companies.

But, in an open international marketplace, funding non-efficient technologies through subsidies puts your whole economy at a disadvantage against companies that allow companies to thrive on their own merits.

Companies will gladly adapt green technologies when it gives them a competitive advantage. They currently can not offer that, despite all the hype.

How Dare You Not Shop At My Store!

"Local" Boston grocery lashes out at his neighborhood.
“Don Otto’s Market wants to say we had few customers that understood customer loyalty and its importance to our business,” a message on its Web site reads, later adding: “If you came in only for baguettes, the occasional piece of cheese, the occasional dinner . . . you can not tell yourself you were a supporter of our market.”

“People don’t understand their purchases make a difference, and that by buying something that wasn’t exactly what you want, it gets you closer to what you want. It’s an investment.”

How dare you not buy my $8 carton of eggs! Which part of "buy local" don't you understand? You'll buy what I tell you to buy, and don't give me any lip!

Arguing with liberals

I think at some point, when you argue with a liberal, they will make a point so breathtakingly stupid that it is impossible to rebut it. If someone really believes that crap, you think, how can I possibly get through to them?

Steve: Like Ed Asner? Actually, I'm not sure liberals have a monopoly on this. Nuts abound on the Right as well, and among Libertarians too, I think. Just visit the comments section of politcal blogs. Pretty depressing.

Case Closed

There's nothing wrong with observing some interesting phenomenon and wondering "what the heck is that!?" Postulating this was a missile was perfectly reasonable, I think. The trouble is that no amount of evidence will convince some people once they have made that postulate. (I'm talking about people commenting in blogs.) They've decided it was a missile and that's that! Human nature, I guess, sad but true.

In case the text of in that screenshot is unclear, someone figured out what flight this was. At the same time the next day, he surfed over to a site showing a web-cam in the area. The webcam showed a contrail in the sky just like the one the day before.

Or maybe the Chinese have launched another missile!

Twinkie Diet

A researcher has lost 27 pounds in two months eating little more than Twinkies, a daily power shake, and a few vegetables. The reason this worked is that each day he took in fewer calories than he burned. It's not exactly rocket science.

After reading the comments about this on a few blogs, I'm sorry to report that many people really don't understand. It takes a certain amount of energy to do the things you do. If your body isn't getting sufficient energy from the food it takes in, it will make up the difference by breaking down tissue. The result is weight loss.

That's pretty much it. Yet it is common to hear people complain about how they eat nothing, exercise all the time, and don't lose weight. Where is their energy coming from then? Thin air? Perhaps they are burning fat but gaining water weight? Somehow I doubt that such a thing is common.

I think much of the diets out there do little but make money for their promoters. There is no miracle diet. Taking in fewer calories than you burn is all that matters.

That reminds me... I could lose 20 pounds or so...

EMP threat

A missile went up last night not far from me; it is supposed to have been a rather large one, and according to reporters at the Pentagon, they have no clue who launched it.

I've long wondered about this scenario: Iran or some other group of not-friendlies gets nuclear weapons. They perform an underground test to which foreign observers are invited. They show those visitors the size and weight of the bomb. They then have a successful detonation. Next, they put a payload of exactly that size and weight onto a missile and fire it from land or sea, shoot the missile up in the air, and they have it harmlessly go boom at altitude. That nation would have demonstrated the ability to take out a large segment of the world with a single EMP weapon.

So, who launched that missile yesterday?


Obama's handlers wouldn't let him visit the Sikh temple in Amritsar, because he would have to cover his head, and they worried people would think he was a muslim or something.

Obama's handlers have him scheduled to visit a mosque in Indonesia, which would in no way make people worry he was a muslim or something.

Drudge does it again

Drudge is a master of perception, subtlety, and placement. From today:

Why so much security in India, Mr. President? Hmmm? Yes, there are some violent Hindu nationalists, but is that really why the Secret Service is going so crazy? Is that why you need 6,000 people to guard you? Or...might it be a different ethnic, political, or religious group that is the problem?

Why the House matters

Here's a graph I made of US Gross Debt as a percentage of GDP, graphed over time (bar graph). Over the top, I've put in the balance of power in the House and Senate, listed as "Full Dem", "Full Rep" or "Split", and when it was split, I labeled the House.

You can see why the House is so important. While the Republicans held the House, the budget didn't explode. Whenever the Dems held the House, it did.

A graphic reminder that all spending bills originate in the House.

As an interesting side note, there is a reason I started the graph in 1981; because, that's the year everything changed. Prior to that, we'd been on a slow decline in Debt (or was it a GDP increase?) even though everything was held by Democrats. We were coming down from the high war years (click for the not-distorted-by-Blogger's-compression version.) In 1981 all hell breaks loose:

You... Can... Market... Carrots!!

A truism

Karl Rove on Hannity just now quoted the president from his press conference (transcript):

"If right now we had 5 percent unemployment instead of 9.6 percent unemployment, then people would have more confidence in those policy choices. " ~ President Obama, Nov 3, 2010.

To which Rove had this to say:

"Well, duh!"

California commits hari-kari

California just put a noose around it's neck and jumped off a cliff--Prop 23 failed which means AB32 will go into effect, requiring a 30% reduction in CO2 in 10 years--when we already have relatively clean energy in the state (much is natural gas, little is coal, and nuclear and renewables are sizable.) There's only one place it can come from and that is a slashing of the state's economic activity.

And, in the end, the only reason it will cut global emissions is by making Californians (that is to say: those Californians that are too poor or too stubborn to move) much, much poorer, and thus less able to buy stuff, travel, drive, or, you know, eat.

To a large extent, the decreased economic output of California will not change global CO2 by one ppm. All it will do is encourage relocation to places--like China or Utah (where Adobe, eBay, Oracle and Twitter have all recently moved)--which are less nice when it comes to pollution (not to mention regulations and taxes). Ironically, it might just increase global CO2.