Thursday, October 29, 2009

Printing Money and Handing it Out isn't "Growth"

Instapundit blurb on GDP announcement: U.S. Economy Is Growing Once Again. But here’s a cautionary note: “But we don’t think that rate of growth is sustainable because it is distorted by all the government stimulus. The challenge here is to get organic growth – growth that isn’t helped by fiscal steroids.”
There was no "growth" in the economy. There was the government shoveling money out the door, which will have to be paid for later. In the mean time the "economic good news" is that things "are not bad as forecast" on unemployment, foreclosures, debt, housing, earnings, etc., etc.

What we basically have is a bubble being created by quantitative easing and government spending. When one or the other eases off all this magic GDP "growth" will stop.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Played With Some of the New Health Technology Obama Wants to Kill

The old way: Well trained private doctor stands over you, rips open your abdomen, takes out your appendix, sews you up. You are in pain for days, recover slowly and have a huge scar.

The new way: A few round openings a centimeter wide are put around your body cavity. Into the holes go a camera and a couple of robotic fingers controlled remotely by a surgeon. The fingers are small, precise, more nimble than human hands. The appendix is detached and slowly pulled from one of the holes while the surgeon guides everything watching a video screen. Once the robotic fingers are removed, the cavity holes are easily sealed back up without leaving much trace. Patient time in the hospital is a fraction of the old time, recovery time is faster.

I had the opportunity to play with one of these systems and it is amazing. The precision and control is orders higher than I could achieve with my own hands. Since it is done with robotic control while watching a monitor it was like playing the coolest video game ever. I could manipulate objects smaller than I could see with my own eyes - and I am a business guy playing with the machine for a few minutes. Imagine what a trained surgeon could do with it?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Overseas Business Quote of the Day

I got this in an actual business email from Asia: Sales always chasing two rabbit at the same time.

I think the first part of this quote was originally Confucius say....

Can You Kindle a Nook?

For you Kindle fans out there, a not so flattering review of the Nook, although other sites have given it good technical reviews.

To tell the truth, for short flights of say and hour or so I have just been using my iPhone as my book reader - one less thing to pack, and for short bursts the iPhone screen isn't bad.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kamchatka: How I Know Obscure Geographical Facts Thanks to Risk

As I pre-teen my buddies and I used to play Risk for hours. We would have sessions starting in the evening, and with lots of coke and snacks at hand we would play into the wee hours of the night. Every once in a while my friend's dad would join in for a few hours.

Risk was a great board game, which for some reason didn't translate well into a computer game. Maybe its lure was more about the personal interaction between opponents than formulating a strategy for conquering the world.

In any event, besides being fun, hours of Risk also embeded obscure geographical facts learned from hours of battle. For example holding Kamchatka was damn near impossible - it could be invaded from FIVE different locations! Try defending that piece of territory! (and thinking of this always reminds me of the Princess Bride quote about never getting involved in a land war in Asia).

Australia and Indonesia, on the other hand, were the best defensive positions on the map. You could put all your armies in Indonesia, which could only be invaded from a single spot, and just put token holding armies over the rest of Australia. So Indonesia was the site of many, many of my last stands, but I made my opponents pay.

Greenland was also very important as it was the only way to get across the Atlantic. So you had to take it eventually. Its Risk importance, and my musing here was brought up by this Tigerhawk blog link:

With such massive potential oil reserves, Greenland is poised to achieve a geopolitical importance it hasn’t had since the invention of Risk.

Well said.
Apparently over the years the map was changed and updated from what was around when I was a kid, plus no one plays this any more, so this particular way of learning geography is lost.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Post Office Doesn't Sell Stamps?

Check out this picture. This is at a U.S. Post Office. It was the only machine in the place:

So this post office has PO boxes. There are mail slots to drop off mail. But, sorry, you can't buy stamps at this post office. At least off hours. If during "business hours" then you can wait in line and get one from a real person.

Who thought of this? Does the Post Office think that if you go to a real person the next day that will produce savings for the government? If they have done anything at all they shifted costs to the consumer - you have to spend extra time and effort to find and get stamps, and the government won't have to pay somebody to spend 30 minutes filling the machine every day.

Do we want these same people running our health care system?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Great Timing

Here I am and here it comes: Strong typhoon bears down on Japan

A little factoid: the Japanese do not give their typhoons names like we do with our hurricanes in the West, just numbers. Of course this does not include the "kamikaze", or Great Wind that saved Japan from Chinese invasion. But if you are going to name only one typhoon, that would be the one.

Update: Press reports refer to the storm as Typhoon Melor. Inside of Japan it is referred to as Typhoon 16, so not sure how or why the naming conventions are separate.