Sep 272005

Looks like Rita did a number on the Gulf oil:

Hurricane Rita has caused more damage to oil rigs than any other storm in history and will force companies to delay drilling for oil in the US and as far away as the Middle East, initial damage assessments show.

With prices going up, one would hope our consumption would change. However, this story on Slate about gas prices and the American consumer is quite revealing. Our gas consumption is not affected by price swings because our consumption is locked in by major purchases. Houses in the suburbs and big cars are not things that we change quickly or easily.

“Practically speaking, the only hope of changing America’s driving habits is a hefty price increase that lasts. For, oh, five years. The data show that after that long, even the response of American drivers to higher prices can be pretty sizable. Five years gives people the time to come up with substitutes. Higher commuting costs over that many years could induce you to buy a smaller car, move closer to work, find a car pool for your kids. Of course, that’s why Hurricane Katrina is not likely to have a lasting impact on gasoline use. It’s a big blip, but only a transitory one. Which means it’s exactly what consumers don’t change their behavior for.”

Of course, some would like to argue that the real energy crisis this winter will be natural gas. With 3.5 million cubic feet of Gulf of Mexico natural gas production off-line, and not returning before Christmas, the midwest could be in for a huge shortfall.

Sep 262005

(All photos for this entry are posted here)

Anna and I wandered around Adams Avenue Street Fair Saturday night. It was a good mix, as usual. The jazz stage was nice, but I was disappointed in the latin stage. There were two guys with laptops dj’ing, where I expected to find a funky group like the B-Side Players. While the laptop guys seemed to have a decent crowd, it wasn’t what I was looking for. Expectations, such a cruel mistress.

Is it just me, or did the fair have a lot more amusement park rides this year? They made nice camera fodder, even without a tripod. One of the things I love about street fairs is the sampling of food. All styles and speeds to meet your needs. I got my aguas de sandia (watermelon), Anna got her kibbie sandwich. Everyone wins.

Sep 232005

DARPA Rocket over San Diego (img from the
Image from

Did anyone else happen to catch the DARPA rocket last night? I was headed to P.B. to do some fish tacos on the beach with Bart and gang when I saw it from the freeway. The sun lit it the exhaust trail as if it was a swirling line of multi-colored fire across the sky. It stayed visible for several minutes after finishing its burn. Quite amazing.

The satellite payload is supposed to “gather information about the Earth’s environment in low orbit”. I wonder what else..

Sep 202005

The ridiculously expensive converted condos a block away from us have apparently not been able to sell many units by using the sign flipper guys, or draping a giant banner on the front of the building that is visible from the freeway. This calls for the big guns – a big ole yellow blimp flying from the top of the building, with “CONDOS!” emblazoned on the sides of it. I’ve been wondering what the next step in this war will be. I’m going to put my money on “Free Dinner at Rubio’s With Walk-through Tour!”, written on a flipped sign, thrown from a guy suspended from a blimp.

Professor Piggington lays the smack down on “Report: San Diego housing bubble a myth”, a San Diego Source story on yahoo:

“I’m not sure what I’m more confused about: why the Grinch is attending a Phish concert, or why somebody thought that would make me want to take out a mortgage.”

This LA Times story titled “Mortgages take a bigger bite”, has some choice crazy quotes:

When Rancho Cucamonga buyer Seth Rowlands qualified for a loan to purchase a three-bedroom fixer for $370,000, his lifestyle took a major hit. Because he used all of his available money to buy the home, with little cash left over, the Century 21 agent is sleeping on an air mattress and has yet to buy appliances and furniture. “For the first four months after I bought the house, I came home from work and ate dinner in my car,” Rowlands said. “I made home-buying a goal. If I have to sacrifice and struggle, it’s worth it, knowing I have a home.”

CNN Money takes a look at crazy loans:

Lenders are pushing risky loans with low payments. Desperate home buyers snap them up. Worried yet?

Even Mr Irrational Exuberance has wieghed in on the housing market:

“The housing boom will inevitably simmer down,” Greenspan said in the prepared remarks. “As part of that process, house turnover will decline from currently historic levels, while home price increases will slow and prices could even decrease.”

I give Greenspan a hard time, but he did the right thing today – keeping up the gradual raising of interest rates for the Federal Reserve. He was under pressure to slack off because of Katrina, but inflation and excess credit demand higher rates.

Update: The Economist has a good piece on the Fed’s concerns, and other central banks around the world.

Sep 162005

(All photos for this entry are posted here)

Sept 5, 2005 – From Reno we hit Sacramento, then Anna and I booked it down the 99 to get to Kings Highway and Sequoia National Park. We stopped along the way in Stockton for some caffeine and popped into Fresno to check out the underground gardens, but they weren’t open. Growth in both cities has been huge. It seems like they are really trying to get the downtown going in Stockton with some new development along the river. Stockton is a relatively old city in California time scale as it was an excellent shipping port on the delta, and supported the gold rush. This age means that it has some great old buildings downtown. I hope they can manage to keep them as they grow.

Fueled up, we managed to hit the Kings Highway in the early afternoon. We took the General’s Highway (198) and looped through the parks. It was a bit sad that we didn’t have the time to get out and do a bunch of hiking, but the drive was amazing. Windows down, the car was filled with redwood & pine and the dry scent of fall. Even when you ignored the giants, the granite rocks strewn through the trees made for a dramatic scene.

We did the typical tourist things – drove through the tunnel log, climbed Moro Rock (fantastic trail and view), and checked out the biggest of them all, General Sherman. We also managed to get a little bit off the beaten path and explore a small river along the road. It was fairly low, but the water had smoothed the rock faces along the bank and carved some great little pools.

I really enjoyed the parks. They have a distinctly nostalgic, golden-age feel about them. They offer unprecedented road access to an amazing landscape, and cement trails with handrails up to amazing viewpoints. These things would never be done in this day and age, as damage to nature would be the primary concern. In fact, they are ripping out much of the old parking lots and roads that are too close to the giants. It is a common conflict for parks these days, balancing access with preservation. For the sequoias, they seem to be on their way to getting the best of both worlds.

Sep 132005

– This really sucks – Million Solar Roofs Bill Dies in California Assembly – This bill had bi-partisan support until Assembly Democrats added union-sponsored amendments, including a provision that requires the payment of “prevailing wage” — in effect, union scale — on commercial and industrial solar installations. In essence, the democrats poison-pilled the bill to prevent Schwarzenegger from being successful on a popular environmental issue. I can not express how disappointing this is, and how lame the democrats look because of it. Prevailing wage is fine and dandy, but it should not be tackled in an environmental bill. More info here (note National Council for Solar Growth has moved to

– For energy-hungry Asian governments, renewable energy such as solar, wind and geothermal power is gaining ever greater credence as a way to curb the region’s appetite for oil and cut runaway import bills.

– With gasoline prices topping $3 a gallon and consumers searching for relief, what’s the smartest thing the government could do? Make sure the prices stay at least that high, say some economists. High prices could boost conservation and diminish the country’s oil thirst. Why now? The economy still is expanding, and consumers already have confronted the shock of $3-a-gallon gasoline. Unfortunately, high gas prices hit the poor the hardest. But I still think we need to tackle our addiction head-on, and give alternatives a fighting chance in the market. We need better public transit, to eat local, and to be more efficient in our use of oil.

– The always provocative Kunstler ties in his (often worst case) theories on sprawl and US energy use with the rebuilding of New Orleans.

“…The dirty secret of the American economy for at least a decade now is that it has come to be based on the creation of suburban sprawl and the activities associated with it — the building of cul-de-sac McMansions, highway retail pods, car sales, real estate sales, the creation of false liquidity in the form of easy mortgages and the deployment of that debt into tradable instruments. The sprawl-building industry comprises over 40 percent of what we do in this country. If you subtract it from the U.S. economy, there isn’t much left besides hair cutting and open heart surgery… Of course, any rebuilding would depend on a major engineering effort to raise the ground level in these neighborhoods. That, in turn, depends on whether whole neighborhoods are deemed to be “scrape offs,” since such a project could not be done in piecemeal fashion. Finally, we would be faced with the economic paradox that new construction tends not to fall into the “affordable housing” category, and those displaced might not be able to acquire new houses to replace the ones they lost in the places where they stood. It’s too early to tell what will become of New Orleans’ downtown core of skyscrapers and megastructures…”