Monday, September 29, 2008

Breadlines R us

The house just voted down the bailout procedure and my stocks to
watch list on Yahoo is entirely red. Gah. One benefit of being in
Italy for the next great depression is that if there are breadlines the
bread here is yummy. Not that crummy bunny bread stuff for me.

If it gets that bad I'm sure we'll be shown the door pretty quick
though. It'll be "no bread for you", and out the door we go.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Black Swan Decade

I'm reading "The Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb, it's a pretty
fascinating look at the gaps in our knowledge when we think we're safe
because we're staying near the average in a non volatile market, but
really we've already driven off a cliff and the smooth sailing that we feel
is because the wheels aren't on a road. He's also got an essay in edge
that hits some key points that a lot of bankers should have read
about 2 years ago...

I've always wondered what this decade will be called, my old man simpson
voice always says it's the oughts, and I'll be able to grumble when I'm an old
man "that hurricane happened back in ought- five". Now I'm afraid that this
decade will turn out to be the black swan decade, where everything from
hurricanes and tsunamis to bank failures and assholes flying planes into buildings
has happened. Personally it was the best decade, but for world history purposes
it seems like one continuous pile of poo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hopeful panicking

We've been traveling for the past week while the double storms hit
back home, one the hurricane in galveston, the other the collapse
and possible resuscitation of the financial system. Watching events from
europe my face took on the appearance of several smileys from msn,
especially the one with teeth gritted and hand up in fear.

Hurricane Ike doesn't look like it was as bad as it could have been.
A little more severe and a little further west and galveston and south
houston would have been tostada. The mayor of Houston and Judge Ed
have things firmly under control and made adjustments to federal delivery
drops that made things better. (I think not perfect outcomes from the
feds is inevitable, it just demonstrates why most power should be at the state
and local levels)

The shitstorm in new york is even worse and left me bouncing from one foot
to another deciding if I should try and move whatever cash I have to euros
right away and sell every stock. Apparently I'm a good indicator for panic
because right at the point I was about to sell what stocks I have, everything
rebounded 10%, I'm lucky it takes me a couple of days of bouncing from foot
to foot to make a decision.

I'm in the hopefull panicking stage now. Maybe this bailout thing will work
and the government pledging it's full faith and credit for all this bad debt will
win the day. I feel more like I'm at a bar and I'm watching two drunks trying
to pay the tab. The first drunk is fairly shabby looking and hands over a beat up
nearly expired mastercard, the bartender runs it and it is declined. The second
drunk says " no problem, I got this one" and pulls and equally shabby looking creditcard
out and hands it to the bartender. If the bartender runs it, it might be declined
then he'll be short on his register. He does the safer thing and just takes a paper
imprint and sends the two drunks off into the night. The bar might never get paid
but at least he won't be short that night.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I think the NWS and government have been lax with this storm, trying not
to repeat the Rita evacuation. Now they'll be ramping up quickly this morning
to shrill, but it might be too late to evac all of east texas. They better put some
thought into this and evac starting with the coastal areas first and not stampeding
out the whole city.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yikes for Houston

If I were in Houston I'd be hauling ass out of there right now to someplace
that won't be without power over the weekend. The folks at weather underground
have added another plot to their repertoir, it is the ensemble model plot. I'm not
certain what that is, but it looks like they are initializing the gfdl model with
different initial conditions and and plotting the multiple runs. On the latest
plot there are two different clusters, one at south padre island and one at
galveston bay. What is really different about the plot is they are doing a
model verification on the same display by plotting the current hurricane positon
on 6 hour old models. It looks to me that the hurricane is trending more northward
and is following the northern cluster towards Houston.

If that trend continues tomorrow morning local time will be a different situation
with the first calls for evacuations. Better to be ready to leave at first light.
(our family policy was modified after hurricane Lily to say that we're not staying
for any hurricane, that looks like it might hit on the 3 day forcast. Just to remove
some of the decision making worrying.) I might foolishly evacuate sometime in the
future, but I don't want to sit and sweat with no lights or a/c for a week either.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Space-alien viewpoint of hurricane

Another great thing about google earth is the ability to turn
on weather and forecast layers. It's possible now to let GE run
and pretend to be an astronaut or space-alien looking down
on puny earthlings....then holy heck there's a big-assed hurricane
about to smack houston!

It's only a matter of time until we have near Real-time update of the
satellite imagery. mwa ha ha hahahha

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I tried to be a community organizer

Back in 1992 during the time I was laid off from the oilfield I reached a point
where I couldn't find an engineering job, and I had to go out and seek as Simon
and Garfunkel said "only workman's wages". One of the few jobs I applied for that
I actually got was working for ACORN. I responded to a classified ad and went
down to a storefront office off of tulane avenue (not a great part of the city). Since
I was the only white face in the place the lady interviewing me gave me the "he's
a crazy white boy" look, but offered me a job and told me to come back for a day's
training. Then I'd be going door to door registering voters.

My father heard what I had done and insisted I call them back and not take the
job. He was probably correct in assuming that the life expectancy of a white guy
going door to door in New Orleans' projects would be pretty low. Luckily the next
week after that my Air Nat'l Guard unit hired me as a temporary worker, and I
turned wrenches instead of trying to organize the community.

Monday, September 01, 2008

watching gustav go ashore

I've been watching Gustav all day with the radar loop playing on main
monitor and trying to learn how to use vmware on the external monitor
but making little progress. It looks like New Orleans dodged a bullet
and the storm is going ashore just west of port fourchon. In the past
few hours it seems like the storm has moved more WNW than NW, and it
will follow Hurricane Andrew's path straight up highway 90 to Lafayette.

It might be pretty bad for Grand Isle. Fourchon doesn't have much in the
way of permanent structures that aren't built up 15' off the ground. Grand
Isle is also built up, but the storm might just eat away all the sand that makes up
the island, all the buildings could be standing in 4' of seawater after the storm.
There's not much else for the storm to hit until Morgan City, and by the time
it reaches lafayette it won't be much more than a strong tropical storm.
(he says with crossed fingers)

Of course on the morning of Katrina the storm was passed and the nytimes
said that New orleans had dodged a bullet, so I'll wait a few more hours before
I stop worrying. The local stations are showing the industrial canal with the
water to the top of the steel wall on top of the levee. I always wondered about
that as a kid, if those steel walls would do anything...appears so.

updated at 17:21 local time- John Snell on channel 8 just made a good point,
the water is about 1 foot below the top of the levee and some water is spraying
over the top, he suggests that once the category of this hurricane is firmly established
it will make a good calibration point for where the levee system is right now.
If the levees will be close to overtopping every 3 years, then the levees need
to be upgraded.
John Snell on channe