Jan 252008

squid squid squid
Photos of squid at La Jolla

We headed into the water at sunset and swam out to the canyon. Dead squid were scattered about the edge of the canyon like confetti after a parade. I was worried we had missed the party. It was not quite dark yet when we saw a few live ones, which promptly squirted ink and ran away when we got close. We were buzzed by a group of sea lions a few times before it finally got dark. We started to see groups of squid milling about and coupling. We saw a few more, then a couple big groups. They were busy coupling, scooting around, and dancing in our lights.

This time they didn’t seem to care that we were near them, in fact, they would swim right up to your mask and light. A few actually seemed to be offering to place their egg sacks on me, or maybe they were just lost. Either way, I assured them I wouldn’t raise their squidlings right, and shooed them away. We spent about 30 minutes at depth before swimming back in. This was a great dive. Even without the squid, there was lots of life out on the sand as well.

Jan 252008

Housing seems to be reaching a tipping point in perceptions anyway; it is tough to see when it will play out. With money falling from the sky, the govt (via Fannie May) willing to take on loans up to $729,750, and the Fed on track to keep lowering interest rates, this all seems a bit familiar to some people:

One day after the Fed slashed its benchmark interest rate to head off a possible recession, a small minority of economists warned on Wednesday that the central bank was in danger of invoking the same remedies that it did after the bubble in dot-com stocks burst seven years ago.

… Beyond the danger of higher inflation, some analysts warn that the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, could also lose credibility by appearing to act in knee-jerk response to plunging stock prices.

“They risk being seen as bailing out equity investors,” wrote Adam S. Posen, deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It makes it look as though stock market fears are driving the Fed to action.”

Then again, perhaps we are headed down Japan’s path – deflation. The Fed can lower rates, but can’t force anyone to take the loan. As housing and credit (both consumer and business) continue to shrink or stagnate, there is a good chance that people and businesses will be leery of taking on debt. Which doesn’t sound like a bad thing, until you realize that much of the current value of the US and world economy is built on the assumption of constant debt and growth. But maybe I’m giving too much credit to the average consumer and trader, which seem to be prone to veer in the instant gratification direction.

I can see arguments for both inflation and deflation. All I’m sure of is that I’m happy Anna and I are debt free.

Jan 162008

Like Canada, Colorado and Wyoming have a massive fight on their hands with mountain pine beetle outbreaks due to drought and warm winters.

Every large, mature lodgepole pine forest in Colorado and southern Wyoming will be dead within three to five years, killed in a mountain pine beetle infestation unprecedented in the state….

A lack of soil cover and the potential for forest fires as the dying trees dry out could leave reservoirs and rivers clogged with sediment more likely to pour off the landscape.

Recreation, too, is jeopardized, as campers and skiers are faced with spending their vacation time amid red-needled trees, or those with no needles at all.

It makes me wonder if we will see Solastalgia here soon.

Jan 142008

The Kansas City Star has an intriguing story about ‘supernote’ counterfeit bills found around the world. These are fakes that are next to perfect, using the same paper, inks, and high quality printing, optically variable ink, and UV strips. But the strange thing is that there aren’t that many of them in circulation, and many sport noticeable flaws. They explore a number of theories, from North Korea counterfeiting (unlikely, they can’t do a decent job on their own currency), to the US and/or CIA producing the bills to track transactions and money flow from regimes or groups.

The supernotes incorporate at least 19 running changes that the United States has made to its engraving plates since 1989, from the names of Treasury secretaries and treasurers to blowing up the image of Ben Franklin on the $100 — something that most counterfeiters can’t or don’t bother to do.

In 1996, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing redesigned the $100 bill, adding security features and an off-center, larger Franklin portrait. In less than a year, new supernotes appeared.

“It goes way beyond what normal counterfeiters are able to do,” said Bender, whose book first spotlighted the improbability of North Korean supernotes. “And it is so elaborate it doesn’t pay for the counterfeiting anymore.”

Jan 072008

scipps canyon scipps canyon scipps canyon
Photos of diving Scripps Canyon

I finally convinced myself I would use scuba equipment enough to own full gear (I already have a computer, suit, etc). My visa limping, I’m now the owner of an aqualung legend supreme regulator, a scubapro glide plus bc, and a steel 80 tank. I got to use it all the next day on my first dive at Scripps Canyon.

The canyon is a very long swim from the pier, the start is near the access road at Black’s. The site is fantastic – a vertical wall covered in life. It is quite dark and deep (we did a bit at 130 feet) but holds a lot of color when you swing your light around. We saw some swell sharks, various small fish, and a lot of anemones and gorgonians. Unfortunately my dive computer (cressi edy) is a lot more conservative than my dive buddies, so I don’t have quite as long at depth before I have to hover on the rim. It was pretty green water when we were there, due to low visibility on the top 40′ of water, but the canyon clears up to about 25 feet. The wall would be mind blowing when the surface visibility hits 20+.

I took a few pictures, keeping the ISO at 80 to see if I could get anything worthwhile with just my alternate light. Not so much. Next time I’ll have to switch the camera to Auto ISO HI, which will increase the ISO up to 400. One interesting thing about photography at this depth is that it maxes out the tint for white balance. Normally I just add a little tint to cancel out the blues and greens, but at this depth, the auto white balance is already using all of the available tint. I’ll need to look into getting a better light source at some point as well – my alternate light is fairly powerful, but doesn’t have a wide enough beam to light stuff for photography.

Jan 042008

The LA Times exposes some of the craziness that is going on with auto financing these days in New cars that are fully loaded — with debt

When Jennifer and Bobby Post traded in their 2001 Chevy Suburban last year for a shiny new Ford F-350 turbo diesel with an extended cab, it seemed like a great deal. Even though they still owed $9,500 on their SUV after the trade-in value, they didn’t have to put a penny down.

The dealership, near the Posts’ home in Victorville, made it easy; it just added the old debt to the price of the new truck and gave the couple a seven-year, $44,276 loan.

First of all, why the hell do they still owe 10k on a 7 year old vehicle? Then there is the rolling of the loan into a new, longer one so they can get a lower monthly. Uhg. Compound interest people, do some googling.

Gone are the days of the three-year car loan. The length of the average automobile loan hit five years, four months in October, up more than six months from 2002, according to the Federal Reserve. And nearly 45% of loans written today are for longer than six years. Even some staid lenders owned by the carmakers, such as Toyota Financial Services and Ford Credit, are offering seven-year financing. And a few credit unions, particularly in the West, are tinkering with the eight-year note.

My mind = blown. If you can’t afford to pay your car off in 3 or 4 years, you should be looking at a different car, or pricing out a bus pass.

Cindy Gerhardt has rolled over so much debt on successive vehicle purchases — five in three years — that she now owes almost $43,000 on two trucks worth no more than $29,000 and, she says, perhaps as little as $22,000. …She recently tried to refinance her mortgage, she said, but was declined because her car payments were too high. “Not one dealer ever said this was a problem. Ever. I never had a dealership say no.”

I am shocked, SHOCKED to hear a business trying to make money off you did not have your best interests at heart. Is personal responsibility dead?

Jan 032008

Wired has a really interesting story called Clive Thompson on How the Next Victim of Climate Change Will Be Our Minds

People are feeling displaced. They’re suffering symptoms eerily similar to those of indigenous populations that are forcibly removed from their traditional homelands. But nobody is being relocated; they haven’t moved anywhere. It’s just that the familiar markers of their area, the physical and sensory signals that define home, are vanishing. Their environment is moving away from them, and they miss it terribly.

Albrecht has given this syndrome an evocative name: solastalgia. It’s a mashup of the roots solacium (comfort) and algia (pain), which together aptly conjure the word nostalgia. In essence, it’s pining for a lost environment. “Solastalgia,” as he wrote in a scientific paper describing his theory, “is a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home.'”

…Ironically, we may simply be rediscovering a syndrome that we thought was dead and buried. Back in the 1940s, the military considered homesickness to be a serious and potentially fatal illness, because drafted soldiers who got shipped overseas would often become savagely depressed. These days, Americans are rarely dislocated against their will, and the army is all-volunteer. Few of us have the experience of being unmoored in the world.

But that may be changing rapidly. In a world that’s quickly heating up and drying up, you can’t go home again — even if you never leave.

It is a very thought provoking topic for me. I’ve often thought about what it will be like to watch things change around us. Will we move further north with the climate, or adapt and stay?