Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year 2011

Thank you to those special readers who made my Christmas extra-Merry. It means a lot to receive your thoughts and kind words. 2010 represented a decrease in quantity of posts, but, as I believe, an increase in quality. What I mean is that, in these last few months, I've started doing research for a number of the posts. Another factor is college. Although I got the bulk of my work out by November, some new colleges popped up on my list- and they were not Common App. I sent my last college essay (those take time to write well!) at 3pm today. I gave it to the postman passing by in the neighborhood. Some good news too: I received full acceptance to Univ. of Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh, and to the Maritime College of New York. A number of the other applications are still in the works. I must note that I made a good step forward at Maritime's neighbor across the Sound, the US Merchant Marines. I made sure to apply only to colleges where I'd be happy (not just ok with) to go come Fall semester, so I'm in a good position right now no matter what happens April 1.
Happy New Year as we head into year 2 of this new decade!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Before I Snooze, Merry Christmas!

We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas

For us in the DC Area, the official qualification for a white Christmas seems a bit strict. That would be one inch. This morning, we got a dusting. The effect was best on the river though. With the recent cold water, the river was frozen thick and appeared as if we had received a healthy snowfall. We received 3 inches last week.
Snow and Christmas seem to go so well with each other.

We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Consumer Test: Roll-Sort

Some have said that sorting through half-dollar rolls provides the most collector coins, because they don't change hands much. Others claim that dimes offer a better return on time, because the date's so small on the coin. One frustrated collector whimmed that nickels are a better deal. Little Brother and I tried all three options on 60 halves, 400 nickels, and 250 dimes. The dimes were duds; the halves turned up nothing this time, but the nickels showed the greatest variety. Of 400 nickels, 10 were more than 50 years old, and one was a silver WWII nickel. According to Internet reporters, 1 of 1000 dimes is silver, so our sample was probably not large enough. I cannot dash over halves though; over the summer I came across two full rolls of silver halves. I figure that any coin that ends up in regular rolls of halves has already been mulled through by another collector. Seek hand-wrapped rolls.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Infrastructure and Debt

I'm on Winter Break now, so readers can expect more insightful and numerous posts over the next two weeks.

Increasing national debt seems to have bipartisan support. This recent legislation aggravates the Fed's fiscal condition. It's old news now, but I have to bring it up for the record. Giving tax breaks to all (rich and poor and those in between) is an easy way to get re-elected -until someone forecloses on the Feds.

Manhattan's population, both in terms of residents and visitors, has grown steadily over at least the past 20 years. In the meantime, a single new link to access the island, from Mainland US, or the outer boroughs, has been built or rebuilt since the 1950's. This newer link would be a single rail tunnel started in the 1960's, finished in the 1980's. Likewise, no new subway has been opened since 1940, save for a few miles in the 1980's. There is supposedly a new tunnel being built under the East River to Grand Central,but we can't verify progress until the trains start to run. For all I know it could just be a money pit- sort of like the cancelled Hudson Tunnel Project. Gov. Christie: things don't get cheaper! As for the Hudson River, no new span- rail or auto- has been built since 1936. Modern technology has allowed for increased efficiency of the train tunnels, but some time you need infrastructure!

MD 200 (codename for Outer Beltway) appears to be almost complete on the first 5-mile section. On-time completion is still within the allotted timeframe. I would have appreciated it if the road were open today- would've saved time over winding through backroads!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Snow

As my classmaate across the table was working away on math, I kept my joy to myself. When I got up to go outside before the flurries stopped, J. wanted to know what I was doing. "Catching some flakes", I explained. He put his work down and stared intently out the window. Sorry, J., for distracting you. Outside, I let youthful enthusiasm get the best of me as I lallied around on the path to the upper building. An exchange student from China asked, "what's that?". Snow. He was gone before I could find out if he got snow frequently at home.

Then I saw in the tabloid paper; "snow showers", forecasted for Monday (tomorrow). I can remember the joy that a fresh snowfall would bring as I woke up at 6am, as if there was to be school. Snow settled overnight, as the yellow of the streetlight reflected on the thin layer of white on the road in the pre-dawn sky.
Actually, back to reality, snow during an exam period isn't too desireable; you've got to take the tests sometime.Thus, it is bittersweetness I feel as the forecast dissipates.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

We've Got Creativity

Every competitor to American dominance (and holder of the fed's debt)seems to be sending satellites, trinkets, and people into space while we stagnate. They, too, seem to have kids who are smarter and more dedicated to learning than our videogaming youth. These international kids major in STEM disciplines, of all things! So, is America behind?

Who was...
First to launch the forerunner to mid-20th century rocket technology (Goddard),
First Space Tourist (Dennis Tito of California)
First to send an Iphone to Space on a 4-figure budget("Brooklyn Space Program"*)First to privatize Space. I heard that the backer of the SpaceX program is actually from South Africa, but history books will remember this as an "American" endeavor.

The SpaceX launch earlier this week resembled what the government did about 50 years ago. However, one main difference is that this project was spearheaded by private industry. If a private company built a craft that terminates the lives of 2% of its occupants, there'd certainly be outrage, and shutdown by the feds. But if the government does it, it's simply a Christopher Columbian Odyssey. In 55 or so years of government management through NASA, the space program notably sent men to the moon (but none in 37 years), and a shuttle (which would be an antique if it were a car). As in a number of other homegrown tech-related industries, the government spearheaded initially, but then there came a time for private industry to take over.


Mercedes has this "exclusive" social network for the under-30 set. But clearly the website was written by someone over 30: I'm one of too many of my "demographic" for the club. In big letters from them: Sorry. In fine print, there is a link to the general survey page, but the damage had already been done. Okay, another luxury car company would actually appreciate my interest in their business (my loyalties are with Volvo).

But consider this: if I were a potential customer, I'd be totally turned off. Rule 103 of marketing: make your customer feel special. Now suppose that down the road, I decide to go to a Benz dealership. I'd have fun with the salesman. Don't ask me about the chicken games I'd set up for him, but I'd get the run for my money. The set-up line might possibly be;"I know that something that happened between me and this company 30 years ago isn't your respnsibility, but someone's got to take the fall." The result may end up with me taking that electronic checkbook out the door in confidence(if cars will be sold in stores then), or in a good laugh.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Old Establishments

America's oldest college, Harvard University was established in 1636.
This date takes on the Yamasa Soy Sauce makers by a mere 9 years.
William and Mary is a then-lifetime younger, coming in at 1693.

News reports cite several examples of restaurants and inns dating back to the 11th century. The Hoshi Inn in Komatsu dates to 718.
As for an organization outside Japan, the Worshipful Company of Bakers dates to 1155. The Medieval guild is something you may have read about in your World History textbook. Nice to know that they're still alive and well.

One thing to take in mind is that most of these oldest establishments are not, and have never been in their histories, conglomerates!
A prime example of the dangers of diversification is Kongo Gumi, a Japanese Temple Building firm that has been in continuous family operation since 578, just a century after Ancient Rome's fall. However, the latest generation of family leaders branched out to commercial real estate in the 1980's, and, well, bad idea. The company, debt-ridden, was absorbed in 2007. Read this Bloomberg article: