Saturday, December 27, 2008

Project Truck Update: Mystery Engine Mount Edition

Finally got some work done on the truck. The weather if finally starting the behave for the first time in over a month. It's been either too wet or too cold to work (paint doesn't stick well below about 60 degrees). The truck hasn't fared exceptionally well in that time, either. The water pump has continued to rust and leak away, there's still a slow drain on the battery, and I left some tape on there and it bonded to the paint and I ripped off some new primer when I went to remove the masking tape. Oops.

The motor mounts are ancient and they rubber is as hard a rock, so I decided to change them out.

I took the pressure off the mounts by using a bottle jack, undid the bolts (VERY hard to access), and removed the motor mounts.

This is what they looked like:

Which is a problem because this is what NAPA said a 1980 C-10 motor (donor engine) mount should look like (upper half only):

I need to go out and find the right motor mount now. Any ideas on what motor mount I should ask for? I'm pretty sure this truck originally came with a straight-6, not a V-8.

Also, FYI- a set of motor mounts should last most vehicles 100,000+ miles or at least a decade. These things are just ancient and it's one more thing contributing to the engine running rough.

Wired: Before the Levees Break: A Plan to Save the Netherlands

Incredible article about flood protection in the Netherlands. Puts our puny system to shame.

It's embarrassing to see how far we've fallen. Given how pathetic are system is, it's hard to comprehend that it was the Dutch who came here for help from a Tulane engineer who was born and raised in New Orleans.

My favorite parts are towards the end:

Applying the Dutch model of risk-based design [to New Orleans' levees] would be a political nonstarter, if not unconstitutional, and the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers would in no time be halted by an army of lawyers.

Meanwhile, the water keeps coming.

The article is really a must-read, especially the end.

UPDATE- Meanwhile, our 100-year storm protection grinds to a halt because of lawyers.

UPDATE 2- New model that takes dynamic effects of waves into account directly contradicts Corps' computer model. MUCH higher storm surge predicted than the Corps' computer model.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Katrina's Hidden Race War? Not Exactly

Katrina's Hidden Race War. From The Nation.

Their thesis is white vigilante's used Katrina as an excuse to gun down whatever black people they saw.

Hands down the best local reaction: "I can't believe Nossiter didn't write this." Worth a read. Lots of horrifying shit happened after Katrina. It was a breakdown in civilization. One of the more interesting stories Dambala recounts: "I've got interviews with people on Dumaine Street who told me of a band of men (African-American) with guns, a police officer included, who were systematically hunting down drug dealers and thugs in their neighborhood and killing them."

Unbelievable attrocities happened in the aftermath of Katrina that will never fully be explored.

For more, here's NOLA Slate's firsthand account of riding out Katrina's aftermath in Algiers Point.

More local reactions: Allowed to Live: "if Alexander and Collins left Algiers Point and told their friends not to set foot in the area, they'd be allowed to live."

Jackass could have stayed in Chicago and learned the real "meaning" of the N-word just fine. The sentiments expressed in this story could have been expressed by any one of a hundred people I've talked to in my years living here. This isn't about the South. This is about America, as it always has been, as we keep saying here: Our fate is your fate, and it was, and it is. Our own."

Mark Folse put it best: "I Hate Illinois Nazis.

My 2 cents: if you want to know what a race war looks like, look up the past or look up what's going on in your own neighborhood before looking down your nose at New Orleans.

UPDATE- Reserve 5 minutes of your time to read Varg's comments.

Bonfire extinguished, reignited

NOFD announced they were shutting down the Mid-City New Year's Bonfire.

Neighbors were aghast at the prospect of a pyromaniac-less New Year's.

After a contentious meeting, Community leaders organized... (Note Mark Folse in the photo) ...Pistolette wrote about Maoist safety-Nazi's... ... and the Bonfire is now back on. (Scaled back closer to what it traditionally was anyway) Dangerblonde has more.

UPDATE- Also, excellent coverage by Gambit. Kudos.

UPDATE 2- Another theory on the Bonfire-Brouhaha. Vengeful Nagin?

Economic Mess

Bush's Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire. By the NY Times. Excellent reporting. It's being billed as a devastating indictment of Bush, and while it doesn't reflect very well on him, I personally thought Paulson took it on the chin in that article.

With Stevens' Fall, a Pipeline for Lobbyists is Shutting Off. More NY Times. One lobbyist wrote, "“For those of us long on the dole, the coming reality will take some getting used to.”"

Entergy caught with hand in the cookie jar. Not a peep of this from the Times-Picayune. Entergy was caught by the state of Mississippi using the fuel surcharge line item on bills (which they are legally prohibited from making a profit on) to pad their profits. Will their be an investigation in Louisiana? I doubt it. Too many of our Public Service Commissioners like getting generous campaign contributions from Entergy.

At Siemens, Bribery was a line item. This is an unfortunate reality in many overseas business ventures. Reminds me of Enron's Dabhol Power Plant in India.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two Headlines

Nagin commissioned an "audit" of the garbage contracts.

Here's the Times-Pic-Your-Nose headline: "Report shows garbage billing descrepancies, but not where originally believed" A highly anticipated report intended to establish whether New Orleans' three garbage contractors have been overpaid shows that two of the vendors have been charging City Hall for fewer locations than were found in their service areas, while the company that covers the French Quarter and downtown has billed for many sites not allowed under its contract.

WWL's headline: "Report on trash billing leaves questions unanswered" The City Council received a report Monday detailing trash pickup in New Orleans and the billing practices of three different companies, but it might not give them the answers they so dearly want.


UPDATE- Further proof on why the Times-Pic headline and article are bullshit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

War On Christmas...

Lolcats singing I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Greg, Oyster, Peter, and Leigh eat your heart out.

*Bonus plaything for the little ones.*

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bush Visits Iraq for "Victory Lap"

What's that about squares being named after him? [Video] Story here.

Also: Who throws a shoe?

UPDATE- Great GIF: I'm sick of that .gif now

UPDATE 2- Full, unedited video with more context. Bush had just finished claiming "victory" in Iraq before the shoe flew over his head.

UPDATE 3- And for his trouble, the shoe-thrower gets tortured like one of Uday's soccer players.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Republicans Sink Auto Bailout

Expanding the unemployment rolls a few hundred thousand at a time...

Republicans admit they only shuttled the bailout to screw over the unions. " Senate negotiations as one last chance to bludgeon organized labor before the GOP minority shrinks " Fucking America one more time on the way out. More in the NY Times.

The quote of the day goes to the Morgan Johnson, UAW Louisiana. Speaking of Vitter's efforts to derail the package: "He'd rather pay a prostitute than pay auto workers."

Would that include Vitter paying auto workers for sex? Especially if they're named Wendy?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The "Blizzard" of '08

Circle bar announces the obvious.

Snowy Church

Half frozen statue of Robert E Lee

Snowing in the Lower Garden District

Mush. Snow and sleet and ice and water.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Local News Roundup

Beware the "Wrath of Khan"

Tulane's endowment looses 24% of its value. From over 1 billion dollars to $789 million. Scott Cowen running Tulane like a business (A.I.G.).

How's this for a local crime: Thibidoux woman fakes carjacking report to get boyfriend to give up offshore job. I guess she missed him too much.

Times-Pic calls Jefferson an "ineffective embarrasment." Hmmm. Will that standard still apply in 2 years with disgraced and ineffective Vitter? Speaking of the devil, Vitter thinks Cao will clean up Louisiana's image of a bunch of crooked, hooker-fucking politicians (like him).

H.M., famed psychology case, passes away. It's revealed he's a local Cajun boy.

My alma-mater, Ben Franklin High School, made the grade as one of the top high schools in the country. Go Falcons!

In Illinois, they're throwing fits over a $6 million tutoring center for jocks only. Scholarship students, work study students, etc. need not enter. Why do I bring this up? LSU's is $15 million. Speaking of Illinois, Is Chicago now officially more corrupt than New Orleans? (H/T Adam). UPDATE- It's official! We're now in a contest! Come on Nagin, get caught in bed with Veronica White and Vitty-Cent while texting Trashanova to get more blow from Bernardo! We know you can do it!

Keep this in mind as the City Council deliberates over the budget (especially if Nagin vetoes the budget): a list of political donations by the 3 sanitation firms.

UPDATE 2- I like Nate Silver's post about who Blogo tried to blackmail/extort/etc. What, no Oprah?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holy Cao!

New Orleans has a new congressperson. This hasn't happened since I was 6 years old.

No more $Bill and his family sucking the lifeblood out of the city. I think this kills any chance of an acquittal. Nobody is going to donate to his legal defense fund now.

Note that Malik, while he had a pretty modest vote total, did tip the election for Cao.

Joseph Cao, congratulations and good luck. Try to do what's best for the city and not what some of your backers might tell you to do. I'd love to see you get reelected.

Between Ted Stevens and $Bill, Congress just got a little more honest.

UPDATE- Oyster beat me to Holy Cao first.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More Autoblogging

Here are 10 cars that prove Detroit still has a chance.

Michael Moore's plan for the Big Three. More insightful than you might think at first glance. I especially like the idea of getting them involved in more aspects of the transportation system. Right now, there's a global shortage of rolling stock for railroads. I can't find the article, but I remember reading how at one point the Trans-Siberian Railway had several near-shutdowns because there weren't enough coal cars to supply the powerstations that power the cars that carry the coal! While I'm at it, I'll point out this article about electrified rail's potential in our nation's transportation system by New Orleanian Alan Drake.

Jalopnik finds Patches! Well, not quite. It's a '63.

Oh yeah, and Mittens is a dick.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

More here:

UPDATE- It's back!

Watch it while you still can!

Also, I'm reposting this because I just can't get sick of it:


UPDATE 2- It won't die!

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Engineering Books

While most engineering research is done on computers with software or Google, I think having a decent library is still important. Here's a small sample of reference books I keep on my desk.

Cameron Hydraulic Data, Crane TP #410, McMaster Carr Catalog, Pocket Ref, Surface Production Operations. Lindeburg is also good.

Crane Technical Paper #410 [Bottom Left] and Cameron Hydraulic Data [Top Left]. Both are essential for pump design. Crane is more common, because it's cheaper and has the most useful data organized well, but Cameron has far more data and I prefer. It wouldn't be a bad idea for universities to give their mechanical engineering students Crane 410 while they're in school to familiarize them with it. All the older engineers got their Cameron book from Vendors, but they don't like giving them away anymore. They'll give you CD's full of data, but they're no where near as useful as a book. You can still find them on E-Bay, Amazon used books, and elsewhere if you hunt around. I like the older editions because there tends to be more data, none of the primary information is obsolete, and they'll have information that's useful to working on legacy systems (like tables in SSU).

Surface Production Operations [Bottom Right]. Petroleum engineering in a book. Originally written by a Tulane Petroleum Engineering professor (back when Tulane still had petroleum engineering {or any for that matter}). Once again, hunt around for older, cheaper editions.

The big yellow book in the upper right is a McMaster-Carr catalog. It's an ENORMOUS industrial catalog with almost everything you could ever ask for. Very useful for estimating project costs or to know when a vendor is taking you for a ride with their bid. Cheap on E-Bay, but you'll pay for shipping because of its considerable heft. Once again, vendors used to give these to engineers, but not anymore.

The little black book sitting on top of the yellow book is Pocket Ref, a book I've seen on just about every engineers desk. More information per cubic centimeter than any other book ever written. Everything from pipe thicknesses, to wiring, to weather, to everything.

It's a good idea to get a prep manual for the P.E. Exam. I favor Lindeburg's. I used his for the F.E. Exam and liked it. His one for the P.E. useful well after you take the test for your engineering career.

That's a few of the more useful ones on my desk. I'm still hunting around for a cheap copy of Belt Conveyors for Bulk Materials by CEMA and Mineral Processing.

Kei Cars

While driving around, I found a Kei Car right here in New Orleans. This one is a Honda Beat.

Here's a great piece by Wired on Kei Cars. They're big in Japan because of the scarcity of parking. They make them in vans, sedans, pickups and even roadsters.

This Beat was probably imported through the gray market. Note the right hand drive.

These pictures don't give a very good idea of how small the thing is. It's a mid-engined, rear wheel drive convertible. Very cool.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NOAH and VA Hospital busted

Compare the demolitions to the VA map. Notice a pattern? Someone in C-Ray's administration has used inside information on the VA hospital to strategically demolish properties that will be valuable in the future. That person or a partner in crime will buy up the properties and redevelop them after millions of federal dollars are spent.

Prima facie evidence of a huge corruption scheme that tore down people homes for a profit. Whoever buys these properties will be in on the crime. Wait and see.

Good job, Leigh, Karen, et. al.

Also, I think that the refurbishing of Big Charity would be far more economical (and end up with a far superior final product) than this bloated, Nagin-backed project. Renovations wouldn't be cheap, but the base construction is so sturdy, the final building would be stronger, more aesthetically pleasing and cheaper to the taxpayer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meet Patches, & other autopia

After many months of just calling it "the truck," the truck now has a name: Patches. It named itself this weekend. A little on the cutesy side, but it fits. There are patches on top of patches (bondo, fiberglass, and welded metal) and it's coloring is patches of primer-gray over red.

Got some more done on the roof and hood. The roof is almost ready for a couple of layers of primer and a fresh ribbon of caulk. One design quirk on these old trucks is a "gutter" around the roof that would be filled with caulk. Unfortunately, there was never a hole drilled, so water stayed in the gutter, got under the caulk and led to significant rust damage near the tops of both doors.

Because Patches and other classic/quirky cars have taken over her blog, Candice has started Rust Chronicles. Check it out.

More car stuff:

GM's downward spiral. It's hard to understate how much damage Roger Smith's "flair for public relations" did to GM.

Engineers Rule at Honda. Honda is different from all other carmakers: they're run by engineers. They've never had mass layoffs and they've never had an unprofitable year. They're the only car company that spend more on R&D than advertising (I'm looking at you, Ford and Toyota!). Soichiro Honda was one of the most brilliant engineers of the 20th Century. His son now runs Mugen. Honda exists apart because of his brilliance. One fun little fact: the Honda Del Sol was the last car he had a part in designing.

Also, looking for a Christmas gift for Mr. Gloomy Pants? Here are two ideas.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Irish Channel Republican Army?

Ray suggested it... and now, the first wave strikes!

Candice heard it at 1 AM or so last night and thought someone got shot. The dog barked at it.

UPDATE- Carbomb was in retaliation for auto accident.

Benson is full of shit

Everyone agrees. Even his employees.

I'd hate to see what the aftermath of one of those offensive linemen looks like.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

News and Notes - 22 November 2008

Watch them Squirm: Fox News abandons the mob it created. Along the same lines, check out their eviseration of the new South Park.

Pirates vs. Ninjas, NOLA-edition:

In local political news, did a crooked deal out Cazayoux?

Plummeting oil prices turn state surpluses into deficits. Remember the Stelly Tax Plan-Cuts? Well, they're back to haunt us, like the Times-Picayune warned.

Local judicial corruption clerks suicide notes.

How bad is the economy getting? Over 100 applicants to a 7-Eleven job. Wait until after seasonal retail employment boom ends. It's not just the US anymore: Japanese elderly steal to make ends meet. A preview of what happens if we can't patch up Social Security? Also, what might economic collapse look like? The Boston Globe asks. Expect 4 areas to be hit the hardest: housing, education (which would normally boom during a normal recession), healthcare, and childcare.

Krugman describes how between now and January 20th could be the most dangerous time of the economic crisis.

China passes Japan as largest holder of US Treasuries. This will have a big effect on US foreign policy over the next 20 years.

Michigan police chief admits speeding tickets about revenue enhancement, not safety. Nice to see someone finally admit it. We'll see a rise in speeding tickets as municipalities take hits in property tax revenues.

Satirical edition of The New York Times. Don't miss the hilarious Tom Friedman spoof.

Gary Brecher writes the Bush Administration's obituary: Bush fought the wars and the wars won.

As newspapers make cuts, new watchdogs emerge. Fascinating look at a new model for civic involvement. Anyone have any opinions on Voice of San Diego? What does it say when the most thouroughly fact-checked news organ is Sports Illustrated? Don't miss Nate Silver's John Zeigler interview and Did Talk Radio Kill Conservatism?

Tennessee cutting $40 million in college spending while spending $10 million on an obsolete anti-filesharing system. Trying to stop college students from running Limewire more important than hiring 100 college professors is the height of stupidity. Way to go, Tennessee!

Mark Cuban got nailed on insider trading, but was it insider trading or political persecution? For reference, Martha Stewart was nailed less than 2 years after her misdeeds. Cuban was nailed 4 years after his alleged misdeeds. Is that even still within the statute of limitations? You only have to keep your tax documents for 3 years.

Debunking myths and truths about recycling.

And now, the happy thought of the day: imagine hundreds of these off the Louisiana coast.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Auto Industry Bailout

The big news of the day is the auto bailout being debated in Congress and the effect it had on the markets (Down below 8,000 for the first time in over 5 years). Senator Vitter has made up his mind that he wants the auto industry to burn or if they are given a bailout, it should screw over the workers as much as possible.

I wrote my only useful congressperson (Vitter and $Bill being more useless than a condom dispenser in a convent) on some of my thoughts:

Dear Senator Landrieu,

I write to you because I've read that you haven't made up your mind on the Auto industry bailout proposal being finalized. I ask that you vote for this measure when it is finalized.

Not many Louisiana jobs are at risk. It's mostly taking our money to pay for others. There are very good reasons not to vote for a bailout for the auto industry. They've had many problems over the years. The quality control through the 1980's was non-existent. They've built gas guzzlers. Their CEO's are tone-deaf, out of touch, and make horrible business decisions. They've failed to embrace change.

But I think that that's overlooking recent changes. In 2007, there was a major breakthrough in labor costs. They got a new union contract. They've brought their quality in line with Toyota (don't take my word on it, ask The Truth About Cars). It's going to take a while to work undo the damage they did with their previous cars, but they were on the road back.

Then the Wall Street Crisis hit and they were unable to get loans to put their plans into practice. They're running out of cash. If they run out, they'll be forced to file bankruptcy. A company as complex as GM doesn't stand a good chance of coming out of a bankruptcy. It will probably be sold at pennies on the dollar with hundreds of thousands (millions?) added to the unemployment rolls in the middle of the biggest economic disruption since the Great Depression.

Make no mistake, if this bill fails, the repercussions will snowball through not just the auto industry, but the entire economy. Can the financial crisis get worse? Absolutely. Remember that the Great Depression wasn't fully felt until well after the 1929 crash. This bill failing could deepen the crisis like what happened after the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930.

It will probably be cheaper in the long run, when you factor in unemployment payments, crime, pension fund guarantees by the government, bond ratings of the state of Michigan and Detroit, etc. The worst thing that happens is some money is lost and they go under in a few years. Even then, the economy will probably have recovered enough to take the dynamite blast of a GM bankruptcy reverberating through the markets. The best scenario is you give the auto industry a fighting chance to recover.

That's all I ask for: give them a fighting chance.

Thanks for your attention to this issue,
Clay __________

I was also going to include another thought of mine: the ones most strenuously opposed to the bailout are the ones most ignorant about the industry. Yeah, Rick Wagoner and Bob Lutz are assholes (especially for that "crock of shit" comment), but it's hard to imagine someone else doing appreciably better given the hand they were dealt. They are far and away better than Roger Smith, whose catastrophic tenure GM still hasn't recovered from. Yes, that is the same Roger Smith as Roger and Me fame.

As a side note, I've been pretty interested in the auto industry for a while. Every year at Tulane, I worked on the Mini-Baja car. When I was a sophomore, I almost went to Dresden for a semester abroad that could have ended with an internship at BMW's engine design department. Had things broken a little differently for me, I might be working in the auto industry right now. As it is, I've stayed a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, just out of interest, even though I have nothing to do at work in the auto industry. My best wishes go to my fellow mechanical engineers in the auto industry, whatever company they're with. I fear they're going to need it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Project Truck Update: Hood complete

Hood complete... at least for now.

Finally got done sanding the topside of the hood.

Notice all the bondo patches from all the holes I had to patch. Fortunately for me, Candice is much more patient when it comes to sanding.

Put a nice protective layer of primer on.

It probably will need to be cleaned up before it gets a coat of topcoat, but this will do for now.

Also did the herculean task of getting the hood back on the truck.

The hood is bigger than a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood, so it's extremely unwieldy.

I've been working on the hood since Gustav and it's finally back on the truck. Yipee!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oh yeah, there is still a financial crisis going on

I know there was an election and everyone wants to know what the first puppy is going to look like, but there's also been that whole financial implosion thingy still going on.

Iceland labeled a terrorist country by Gordon Brown. Foreign businesses are fleeing Iceland like South Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and Brown's actions are only exacerbating the problem. All because they won't bail out British depositors (and add enough debt equal to 50% their GDP in the process).

In Nevada, 50% of mortgages are "underwater."

Speaking of underwater mortgage holders, "The Party that Wrecked America" gets a taste of their own medicine.

Naomi Klein: The Bush gang's parting gift: a final, frantic looting of public wealth. I still have The Shock Doctrine sitting on my shelf, unread. I've been meaning to read it, just haven't gotten around to it. I'll try getting to it by the end of the year.

Remember all that bailout money? Well, Wall Street appreciates your money. They'll be redistributing your wealth into big bonuses for themselves.

The most ominous new development in the financial meltdown is the Chinese slowdown. Chinese Officials Flee with Cash. I think it's a good thing China executes crooked politicians. Chinese factories closing by the tens of thousands. Very disturbing. Instead of orderly bankruptcies, the owners are burning the books, draining the remaining cash, and taking off for non-extradition countries in droves. The collateral damage from those actions is tremendous.

News of Note - 8 November '08

America's actions Tuesday summed up in this photo set.

Proposition 8 passed in California. Mormons donated heavily to its defeat, so they should worry about the Governator launching an invasion of Utah. Gays are pissed and will boycott Mormon businesses.

I like this Op-Ed from the SLC Tribune: What's more harmful to society - two well-dressed men getting married and settling down, or two idiots tying the knot and cranking out any number of additional idiots?

Remember all of those unruly protesters at the DNC in Denver? Well, turns out a bunch of them were undercover cops. Don't worry. The Agent Provocateur undercover cops got pepper sprayed by cops in riot gear

This is some of my coworkers:
Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Between Obama and Nick Saban, they're going to need some Prozac.

Georgia committed widespread atrocities against the Ossetians and Russians during the Ossetian War.

In Somalia, Islamic Millitants stoned a 13 year old rape victim to death in front of hundreds while she begging for her life. Chilling description from the BBC.

In New Orleans, the Facility Master Plan for NOPS was passed. Only one board member voted against it. For more, check out Eli.

Lee Zurick takes on Trashanova. Trashanova strikes again. Now dumping raw sewerage on St. Bernard.

Nagin's non-endorsement endorsement of Dollar Bill.

End on a happy note: Otto the Octopus gets annoyed with bright lights.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Project Truck Update: Still working on Hood

Fixing up the hood is taking a while. I took the cowl off a while ago and I've been slowly patching holes and mending the hood. Candice describes the first experiment with fiberglass and painting the underside of the hood.

Here's what the hood looked like after I removed the cowl:

And here's what the underside looks like all nice and patched and repainted:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dawn on a New Day in America

"La victoire d'Obama porte un nouveau rêve américain" Linking to Le Monde because I can.

McCain's concession speech. It didn't feel like it really happened until I heard this speech. McCain's first thing was to call out the racists in his own party and tell the crown to show some class and respect. If he lost any respect during this long slog, he gained it all back there.

Obama's victory "YES WE CAN" speech. This one will be in every history textbook in America one day.

And Mr. Gloomy Pants back to normal.

The Onion's headline.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Returns

Congratulations to our new D.A., Leon Cannizzaro. I wish you the best of luck building our District Attorney office into one of the best in the country.

Nationally, it is Barack Obama in a landslide with Independents, Women, Minorities, and the 18-24 demographic (including yours truly). 21% of voters came from that last group. Young people finally showed up and voted. Congratulations.

Going to vote

Go vote today. Along those lines, when is everyone getting to their polling place? I'm inserting a poll at the top of the page to track answers.

I'll probably take a long lunch to make it to the polls.

I wish we had a federal holiday today.

UPDATE- Took an early lunch and got in and out in 10 minutes.

UPDATE 2- Poll Results:

When are you going to vote?

Before Work
6 (66%)

Long Lunch
1 (11%)

Taking Off Early
2 (22%)

After Work
0 (0%)

0 (0%)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oui on peut!

Anyone know where I can get the album?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spam Email of the Day- 24 Oct 2008

This stuff it proliferating. I can deal with a week and a half of this stuff. I'm getting very worried about 4-8 years.

Here's the first email:

Here is a creative approach to redistribution of wealth as offered in a local newspaper...

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read "Vote Obama, I need the money." I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a "Obama 08" tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference--just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I've decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

My response:

No, that would be communism. Or just being a jerk.

Socialism is when everyone chips in a little for there to be a safety net for who need it. There are plenty of examples of "socialism" at work that nobody complains about. Europe is filled with "socialists," yet the Eurozone is a significantly larger economy than the US (translation: "socialists" make more money than "capitalists," even after factoring in higher taxes). The police department, fire department, public library, Medicare, and Social (you see, that SOCIAL word) Security are all "socialism" in the US. All are pretty successful. Should the fire department only put out your house if you have the ability to pay them first for putting the fire out?

If you're against the fire department and the police department, by all means, start movement to shut them down. Start a petition drive. Contact your representative. By all means, take some action. Take your money back from those filthy "socialists." I'd love to see how much support you get.

It's also ironic that you complain about Obama when the current president, who I'm willing to bet you voted for, is funneling how many billions (trillions?) of your tax dollars to Wall Street and others in bailout after bailout?

I'm getting testy. Had to get some detox entertainment: Bullworth on Hulu.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spam Email of the Day - 23 Oct 2008

On the bright side, there's only a few more days until election day. On the other hand, it could be a long 4-8 years.

Plot To Kidnap Obama Exposed!

Thanks to our top notch US Secret Service protection, a brazen new plot to kidnap Presidential hopeful Barack Obama has been exposed! These kidnappers are not only getting brave (maybe desperate), they’re also getting more inventive

I think someone originally got the joke from Tiger Droppings.

My response:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Links of the day - 10/21/08

FBI struggles to handle Financial Fraud cases. 36% fewer case officers than 2001. Since then, we've had Enron, Worldcom, A.I.G., and a host of others.

40% of Gulf of Mexico oil production STILL shut in due to Gustav and pals.

Second Bomb blast hits pipeline. Canadian terrorists? We all know how the last war with Canada went.

"Massive" find was bypassed by Exxon. In one of the deepest, most technically challenging drilling feats in industry history, Freeport, et. al. seem to have hit a big find. In July, this would have been all over the news. Now, hardly a peep. It could be the biggest domestic oil find (4 billion barrels?) in over a decade, but that's no guarantee it will ever see production. First off, even with the best technology, you need more than 1 appraisal well to judge the economics of a reservoir. This has already been one of most expensive holes ever dug by man. Drilling 2 more will be even more costly. Second, the oil might not flow right. Deep wells tend to have flowrate problems, which was one of the reasons that Jack #2's good flowrates was such a big deal a few years ago. Thirdly, the economics might not make sense at today's prices. I doubt the project will work with $50 a barrel oil. Probably not even $60 a barrel. All that being said, this appears to be one hell of a find.

Graphical depiction of GM/Chrysler Merger.

A modern day WPA will save the economy. From Wired. Strident call for infrastructure reconstruction from the next administration. High on the list should be a national, electrified rail system starting with this one in California. Oh yeah, and Cat 5 Levees for New Orleans.

Jalopnik DOTS: 1966 Chevy Pickup. Classic truck sitting on the street in the land that rust forgot. Probably a straight six and a three on the tree.

Keith Olbermann's high school history teacher just passed away. Look at what found in 1991:

Early Obama voters meet with hecklers, slashed tires. Also, possible voting machine problems? We'll have to see.

Hedge Fund Manager calls it quits

Jeffery, you have a new hero:

Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, "What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it." I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.

So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don't worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer's company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government.

Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man's interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft's near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won't see it included in BP's, "Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions," television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM's similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country?

Ah, the female. The evil female plant -- marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let's stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.

With that I say good-bye and good luck.

All the best,

Andrew Lahde

Saint Lahde?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Alfred E. Smith Mememorial Dinner Speeches

Here's McCain's speech:

The first few seconds got cut off. If you're interested in the rest, try here.
Obama's Speech:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Project Truck Update: Boys with Toys Edition

Continuing to repair the hood. Broke out the full arsenal last time:

First, sandblasted the hole.

Next, got dressed up in my canadian tuxedo to start welding.

If my welding teacher, John Gerrets, ever sees this weld, I promise I can do better. I was trying to minimize burn marks and warping of the outer surface of the hood.

See. Here's the patched hole. 3 very minor burn spots corresponding to the spot welds.

Covered the hole in bondo. I'll smooth it out and make it so you'll never know there was a hole there. Plus, the hole will be reinforced from the bottom, so the repair will last.

Couple of Subprime Chain Letters

I work in a fairly conservative office and get forwarded all sorts of political emails that are total crap. I try to rebut them the best I can and then publish them to show what people are reading. Click the spam tag to see some of the ones I've gotten in the past.

Here's the first one forwarded to me:
So, tell me, who do you think is responsible for the current financial mess we are? I can tell you that the Democrats have at least an equal share in the blame. Contract [sic] to what Nobama wants you to believe, it is not all Bush and McCain’s fault.

Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending

Published: September 30, 1999

In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people [emphasis in original] and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates -- anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.

''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''

Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''

Under Fannie Mae's pilot program, consumers who qualify can secure a mortgage with an interest rate one percentage point above that of a conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgage of less than $240,000 -- a rate that currently averages about 7.76 per cent. If the borrower makes his or her monthly payments on time for two years, the one percentage point premium is dropped.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, does not lend money directly to consumers. Instead, it purchases loans that banks make on what is called the secondary market. By expanding the type of loans that it will buy, Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings.

Fannie Mae officials stress that the new mortgages will be extended to all potential borrowers who can qualify for a mortgage. But they add that the move is intended in part to increase the number of minority and low income home owners who tend to have worse credit ratings than non-Hispanic whites.

Home ownership has, in fact, exploded among minorities during the economic boom of the 1990's. The number of mortgages extended to Hispanic applicants jumped by 87.2 per cent from 1993 to 1998, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. During that same period the number of African Americans who got mortgages to buy a home increased by 71.9 per cent and the number of Asian Americans by 46.3 per cent.

In contrast, the number of non-Hispanic whites who received loans for homes increased by 31.2 per cent.

Despite these gains, home ownership rates for minorities continue to lag behind non-Hispanic whites, in part because blacks and Hispanics in particular tend to have on average worse credit ratings.

In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed that by the year 2001, 50 percent of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's portfolio be made up of loans to low and moderate-income borrowers. Last year, 44 percent of the loans Fannie Mae purchased were from these groups.

The change in policy also comes at the same time that HUD is investigating allegations of racial discrimination in the automated underwriting systems used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to determine the credit-worthiness of credit applicants.

Here's my response to that email:

Yes, Democrats had a role to play, but it's not just subprime mortgages that are going under. It's also prime mortgages. Sure, there was pressure by Clinton, but there were still regulations in place to keep Fannie and Freddie from taking unqualified mortgages. It's way too complicated to pin the blame on Clinton with 1 sentence from an 8 year old newspaper article to change that.

Here's the crux of the entire financial crisis: you own suprime mortgages. I own subprime mortgages. It's also failing prime mortgages. Those mortgages got bundled up into Mortgage-Backed Securities called Structured Investment Vehicles (SIV's). Those SIV's got bought and sold over and over and now everyone owns some. I'll bet you a dollar that somewhere in your 401(k) is a good chunk of mortgage-backed SIV's. Furthermore, because the SIV's dressed up and supposedly you could still get the real estate behind the vehicle if the mortgage failed, the investment vehicle was supposedly safe. They were rated as "safe" investment vehicles. Had they beed labeled as "speculative," all but a handful of investors would have shunned them and we wouldn't have gotten into this mess in the first place. THAT is the real cause of the financial crisis. Selling chiecken shit, but calling it chicken salad.

Also, if it were the fault of minorities not paying their mortgages, why are the hardest hit areas in Las Vegas suburbs, Cleveland, OH and Boca Raton, FL?

Guess when the most mortgage backed securites were sold? 2005. When did the housing market peak? 2005. Those are simple facts.

If you want to learn more, I'd recommend reading either Paul Krugman with the New York Times (very good at breaking complex problems into easy to understand components) or The Cunning Realist ( I think you'll like the Cunning Realist. He's a lifelong Republican, but he's a "Republican for Obama"-type. I think you'll like his style and all.

Here's the second email:
Click through this.
Attached is an excellent PowerPoint showing the history behind the current financial crisis and failure of Fannie Mae. Democrats continue to point to the Bush administration but there is a much deeper story.

Subject: Fannie Mae


During this political season let's be reminded of these wise words:

· You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

· You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

· You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

· You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.

· You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred

· You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence.

· You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.


Here is a quick look into 3 former Fannie Mae executives who have brought down
Wall Street.

Franklin Raines was a Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Fannie Mae.
Raines was forced to retire from his position with Fannie Mae when auditing
discovered severe irregularities in Fannie Mae's accounting activities. At the
time of his departure The Wall Street Journal noted, " Raines, who long defended
the company's accounting despite mounting evidence that it wasn't proper, issued
a statement late Tuesday conceding that "mistakes were made" and saying he would
assume responsibility as he had earlier promised. News reports indicate the
company was under growing pressure from regulators to shake up its management in
the wake of findings that the company's books ran afoul of generally accepted
accounting principles for four years." Fannie Mae had to reduce its surplus by
$9 billion.

Raines left with a "golden parachute valued at $240 Million in benefits. The
Government filed suit against Raines when the depth of the accounting scandal
became clear. . The Government
noted, "The 101 charges reveal how the individuals improperly manipulated
earnings to maximize their bonuses, while knowingly neglecting accounting
systems and internal controls, misapplying over twenty accounting principles and
misleading the regulator and the public. The Notice explains how they submitted
six years of misleading and inaccurate accounting statements and inaccurate
capital reports that enabled them to grow Fannie Mae in an unsafe and unsound
manner." These charges were made in 2006. The Court ordered Raines to return
$50 Million Dollars he received in bonuses based on the miss-stated Fannie Mae

Tim Howard - Was the Chief Financial Officer of Fannie Mae. Howard "was a
strong internal proponent of using accounting strategies that would ensure a
"stable pattern of earnings" at Fannie. In everyday English - he was cooking the
books. The Government Investigation determined that, "Chief Financial Officer,
Tim Howard, failed to provide adequate oversight to key control and reporting
functions within Fannie Mae,"

On June 16, 2006, Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., asked the Justice Department to
investigate his allegations that two former Fannie Mae executives lied to
Congress in October 2004 when they denied manipulating the mortgage-finance
giant's income statement to achieve management pay bonuses. Investigations by
federal regulators and the company's board of directors since concluded that
management did manipulate 1998 earnings to trigger bonuses. Raines and Howard
resigned under pressure in late 2004.

Howard's Golden Parachute was estimated at $20 Million!

Jim Johnson - A former executive at Lehman Brothers and who was later forced
from his position as Fannie Mae CEO. A look at the Office of Federal Housing
Enterprise Oversight's May 2006 report on mismanagement and corruption inside
Fannie Mae, and you'll see some interesting things about Johnson. Investigators
found that Fannie Mae had hidden a substantial amount of Johnson's 1998
compensation from the public, reporting that it was between $6 million and $7
million when it fact it was $21 million." Johnson is currently under
investigation for taking illegal loans from Countrywide while serving as CEO of
Fannie Mae.

Johnson's Golden Parachute was estimated at $28 Million.


FRANKLIN RAINES? Raines works for the Obama Campaign as Chief Economic Advisor

TIM HOWARD? Howard is also a Chief Economic Advisor to Obama

JIM JOHNSON? Johnson hired as a Senior Obama Finance Advisor and was selected
to run Obama's Vice Presidential Search Committee

MADE THE MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Would you trust the men who tore Wall Street
down to build the New Wall Street ?

McCain or Obama? Stay updated on coverage of the Presidential race while you browse - Download Now!

Note- I'll get around to uploading the attached Powerpoint later.

Here's my response to that email:
First off, Lincoln never said one word of that. Those quotes ("The 10 Cannots") are by Rev. William John Henry Boetcker.

As far as the 3 individuals you claim are Obama "advisors," well, that's also false:

One of them was briefly on the VP search team before resigning. The other two have no known link to the Obama Campaign.

If you want a list of "who to blame" here's a start:

Don't get too hung up on subprime mortgages. They are only a small slice of the mortgage-backed securities going under. Remember that a subprime mortgage was one that DIDN'T qualify to be purchased by Fannie/Freddie. The areas that are hardest hit by the mortgage crisis (Las Vegas, Boca Raton, Cleveland) were NEVER hotbeds of subprime loans. Also, AIG's failure was a result of financial derivatives, not mortages. There's more to this.

The reason Republicans get blamed is simple: they were in power when the bubble burst. The most mortgage-backed securities were sold in 2005. Housing prices started to fall in 2005. In 2005, Republicans controlled majorities in the House, the Senate, 6 out of 9 Supreme Court appointments, and, of course, the Presidency. Those are all basic facts that we can all agree on. Had it been Democrats holding at least some of those offices, it would be a different story. Why does that matter? The Chairman of the Federal Reserve is appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress. Same with the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Congress is in charge of overseeing the management of Freddie and Fannie, along with the FHA (Executive Branch). The courts review shareholder lawsuits. All of these organziations have 1 basic job: make sure that Wall Street doesn't sell chicken shit and calling it chicken salad. They can sell risky investments, but they have to call it risky investments. Had the risks of mortgage-backed securities been properly labeled, none of this would have happened.

Part of the reason the market is now partially recovering is Republicans have abandoned their "government is always the problem, the private sector is always right"mentality. I'm not saying the opposite is true, but there are cetain things (roads, bridges, schools, police, the military, consumer protection, Wall Street regulation) that are necessary funcions of any government.

Newsweek had an in-depth article about the questionable housing deals by both candidates:

From Keating and McCain to Obama and Rezko, Americans of all walks of life tried to get rich off the housing bubble with money borrowed from the Chinese.

If you want to know more about what really caused this mess, start reading either The Cunning Realist (a lifelong Republican blogger) or Paul Krugman (who won a Nobel Prize in Economics yesterday).