Monthly Archives: July 2004

Recommended Reading

I highly recommend John Mauldin’s weekly free investment/economics newsletter. I’ve been reading it for about two or three months now, and it is really excellent every week. Mauldin is a brilliant analyst, a voracious reader, and he seems to have the pulse on current economic trends. I haven’t done much investment reading for a while, but Mauldin has reinspired me, to some extent.

Namely, I’ve just started reading his book, Bull’s Eye Investing. I’m only three chapters in, so I can’t give it a hearty no-reservations endorsement, but so far I’m impressed.

One of Mauldin’s major conclusions (in the book and in his newsletter) is that we are currently in a secular bear market, and that we shouldn’t expect the stock market to do much more than move sideways for the next 8-15 years. He has reams of data and analysis that back up this conclusion. Supposedly, his book is also going to discuss how to invest in such a climate, but I haven’t gotten to that part yet.

My favorite weblog critic, a big fan of Friederich Hayek, will also appreciate the fact that Mauldin’s economic analysis is largely based in the philosophy of the Austrian school of economic thought.

I should note that Mauldin is a Texan and is pro-Bush. The issue of Mauldin’s politics rarely comes up in the newsletter, though, as he pretty much focuses completely on economic and market issues. He is also level headed enough to recognize that while the Bush tax cuts have provided some economic stimulus, that they have also created problems via the bulging budget deficit.

Incidentally, Mauldin currently predicts that regardless of the outcome of the election, the economy will muddle through for the next 12-18 months with a recession starting in late 2005 or 2006. In other words, it’s going to be a long haul. (I should note that Mauldin, unlike most investment pundits does not think that stock market prices are closely tied to economic performance in anything other than the very long run, e.g. 30 years or so.) We’ll see if/how his prediciton changes over time or is proven right.

Krugman and Giving the Terrorists What They Want

Krugman is excellent today.

I read an article a while back talking about the psychology and sociology of terrorism. Terrorists, basically by definition, do not have the military might or organization to take on any of the world’s major nation states. Neither do they have the legitimacy (for the most part) to make themselves heard in more conventional ways. Instead, they try to do things to provoke a reaction. Specifically, they hope that when they attack us, that our response will be to violently overreact in a way that (1) gives them legitimacy and (2) shows the world what a “great Satan” we really are, thus aiding them in recruiting more people to their cause and causing us to lose face. Bush has, in almost every way, played right into their hands.

Note that I am not saying that terrorism should be ignored or that terrorists should be handled with kid gloves. Not by any means. I’m only saying that our response should be the measured response of a mature superpower, squashing an irritating misquito, and not the response of an angry, imperialist world bully. We were right to go into Afghanastan and overthrow the Taliban. As for the rest, though, Krugman sums it up nicely. Al Qaeda couldn’t have picked a better U. S. President to attack.

The New America Foundation

I just want to note that I am extremely impressed with the work being done by the New America Foundation. I first learned of their efforts on spectrum policy several months ago. Since then, I have learned about their broad-based initiatives in fiscal policy, responsible budgeting, and health insurance. In general, their proposals are based on common sense and sound thinking. I’m still learning about the foundation, so I’m not making a blanket endorsement of all their proposals or positions, but so far, I like what I see.

(It’s funny how when I have so much writing to do today I keep getting sucked back to the blog. Bad Allen! Back to work!)

Institutionalized Lying

No, this entry is probably not about what you think it is.

The NSF requires that every CAREER proposal contain a supporting letter from the proposer’s department head. This letter must contain the following sentence: “I have read and I endorse this career-development plan.” (There are some other required sentences as well, but this is the one on which I will focus.) In large departments, this means that the department head is attesting to having read hundreds of pages of proposal, which implies that the proposals were either prepared well in advance (they weren’t) or that the department head has superhuman reading speed and comprehension. Perhaps I am too scrupulous, but I think that if I were a department head then this might bother me. Oh sure, I can rationalize why this behavior is necessary — both the requirement from the NSF and the response from the department heads (which is often to sign the letter, which the proposer wrote, without reading (or even seeing) the proposal). Nonetheless, I still think it would irritate me.

Note to NSF: I am, of course, not talking about my own proposal or my own department head. We are blessed with a department head who has superhuman reading speed, extraordinary comprehension, and lightning-like writing ability. He can read a 15 page proposal and write a support letter in 45 seconds flat. He doesn’t even require the assistance of an administrative assistant, and most of his time is spent waiting for the printer on his desk to catch up with him. So there.

Pretty Wild

No time to comment this morning, but this is pretty wild. At the moment, the “outsourcing” in question is from Missouri to Colorado. I wonder, though, how long it will be before they start setting up call centers in India. (Before anyone makes wild assumptions, my general feelings on outsourcing put me at odds with most liberals and a fair number of conservatives. I’m in line with many economists, though, so that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. 🙂 )

Fishy Chemistry

I took my aquarium water to the fish store to be tested this week. The findings: Ammonia level is at about 1 ppm; this is good for a newly established tank. Nitrite level undetectably low; this is good, but I find it a little suspicious. The pH, though, was up around 8.4. This is bad. Not many fish like water so basic. The current inhabitants of my tank could live in motor oil, according to Jason and the guy at the fish store, and African Cichlids are fond of hard, basic water, but that’s about it.

What’s causing this high pH? Our well water contains lots of disolved limestone. This we knew, as anything which touches water for any length of time at our house gets a nice limestone deposit around the surface. It never occured to me (until I got the water tested) that this would raise the pH. It’s a miracle that I passed AP Chemistry. Mr. Loy would be so disapointed.

Fortunately, we have kindly neighbors who are on city water. So, I got some 5 gallon buckets and will trek to their house for my future water needs. This is a bit of a pain at the moment, as I am doing frequent water changes to try to drop the pH. Once we reach steady state, though, I will only need about 2 buckets per month. So, that won’t be a big problem.

I am working my tail off trying to get a proposal out the door by Tuesday. So, no heavy lifting/thinking here this weekend.