Archive for June 21st, 2009

Unnerving bus trips south of the border

| June 21, 2009 | 1 Reply
Unnerving bus trips south of the border

I’m never forget my bus trip to Otavalo, two hours north of Quito Ecuador. I was traveling with my friend (“Susan”) back in December, 1998. We decided to take the public bus from Quito. The trip only cost a couple dollars. All kinds of people, and several kinds of animals (e.g., chickens) piled onto the bus and off we went toward Otavalo, over some rather serious hills. It turned out to be a bus ride strong of heart. The bus driver took us around some rather serious mountain curves at high speeds that suggested that our high center of gravity would topple the bus over the edge of the road and it would then tumble down the mountain and burst into flames. This sort of accident never happened, but I was fairly certain it was going to happen. In fact, I was absolutely certain that it was going to happen on several occasions. Susan and I both agreed that we should not be alive today based upon that bus ride. Not only did the driver take the bus around sharp curves, but he passed other buses on the outside while going uphill around many of those same sharp blind curves.

I will admit, the bus ride only cost us two dollars each, but we assumed that we would feel safe to our journey. Even before we got to the twisting mountain roads, the bus sped along since straight highway at about 60 miles an hour, even though there was a 3-foot shoulder on which tiny children were walking to school. Some of those children looked to be only four or five years old. I couldn’t believe that the bus was actually shooting past these children, only two or three feet away. It made us all the more nervous to see flowers and crucifixes marking the highway deaths every few miles.

Actually, I haven’t come to the part of the story that made me the most nervous. While we were speeding around mountain curves, passing on the outside, the driver called to his assistant and told him to check out a mechanical problem with the bus. The driver did not pull over. Instead, the assistant opened up a panel on the floor of the bus (just to the right of the bus driver) and was reaching down into that big a hole with some tools while the bus was speeding around the mountain curves.

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Barack Obama still not shooting straight on the economy

| June 21, 2009 | 6 Replies
Barack Obama still not shooting straight on the economy

In the June 19 edition of The Nation, William Greider, a political journalist, argues (in “Obama’s False Financial Reform“) that Barack Obama needs to stop running interference for politicians and Wall Street. The proper parties to blame for the economic meltdown and a legitimate long-term fix are two sides of the same coin. Greider argues that Obama’s “reform” is merely “kicking the can down the road.” Greider pulls no punches:

The most disturbing thing about Barack Obama’s call for financial reform was the way in which the president falsified our predicament. He tried to make it sound as though everyone was implicated in the financial breakdown and therefore no one was really to blame . . . That is not what happened, to put it charitably. Unlike some other presidents, Obama is much too intelligent not to know this. The regulatory system was not overwhelmed by historic forces. It was systematically gutted and dismantled by the government in Washington at the behest of the banking interests.

If you want specifics, Greider’s article has lots of them. Consider what to do about Obama’s false solution to unregulated mortgage securitization. As Greider explains, Obama’s proposed solution is clearly bogus, yet there is a real solution:

Obama’s answer is to require the originating lender to retain a 5 percent interest in the mortgage and pass on the rest. That seems ludicrous and innocent of how that cutthroat world actually works. The financial geniuses who created the subprime mortgage scandal could hide 5 percent of the mortgage value with a couple of keystrokes–adding fees, closing costs or other dodges. To hold lenders genuinely responsible, they should be made to hold onto something like 50 percent of liability for the original loan with perhaps the other 50 percent assigned to whatever bank or investment house packages the mortgage security and sells it to financial markets. That would be “responsibility” with old-fashioned force.

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Happy Father’s Day –

| June 21, 2009 | 4 Replies
Happy Father’s Day –

- to all the men out there raising honest, compassionate, inquisitive children.

– to all the dads who aren’t afraid to show their children how much they love them, all the men who model participation and positive values, good health and a passion to learn.

– to the fathers who say no when they need to and who teach their children that mistakes are part of the journey; the dads who forgive, who tell stories and know how to laugh at themselves.

– to every man who makes sure his children know, without having to ask, that he will be there for them, in form or spirit, whenever he is needed, for the rest of their lives.

– and to the other fathers out there, somehow, may they learn how important their presence could be, and find a way to get there.

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Sticker Shock

| June 21, 2009 | 8 Replies
Sticker Shock

Back in the 1980’s I learned that digital electronics always rapidly descend in price. Pretty much, if you bought a computer, disc player, or digital camera a month ago then the price would already be noticeably lower.

But I recently was told (by Erich as he took the pictures here) that the camera he (and I) love to carry has increased in price since we bought them. I didn’t believe him, so I looked it up at Pricegrabber.com and at Amazon. Amazon seems to show the real prices that the (lower) PriceGrabber links jump to. The exact camera that I bought for $160 from Amazon 7 months ago is now a whopping $358! Un-be-(expletive)-lievable.

You may remember Erich and I raving about this little gem since he first bought his over a year ago. I shopped independently and at length to select the same camera. One odd feature of it is that it is available in a range of colors. I bought mine in Gold because it was the cheapest at the time, by $5.

Now however, the price is about $180 in blue or brown, up to $358 in … Gold! Apparently, this camera is now a hot item.

Possibly one reason besides those we’ve mentioned on this site is that hackers have been at work. One can download uncertified “patches” to make this camera do even more amazing things. See Turn Your Point-and-Shoot into a Super-Camera at LifeHacker.com

I feel that this is but another sign of our living in Interesting Times.

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