Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Silver Lining

OK, it's been all over the news, and I'm sure it's been hurting your wallet, pocketbook, purse, or European carry-all. Oil prices reached an all-time high this week at > $132 per barrel, and gas prices have been higher than $4 per gallon for the past 2 weeks. Everybody is moaning and groaning.

However, my thoughts at this time are "no pain, no gain". We need to feel the pinch of high oil prices. We need to feel more than a pinch, we need a good punch, a good blow, a good beatdown. Why? Because it is the only way to provide enough impetus to get us moving on alternative energy sources. And, finally, finally, it appears that people are decreasing consumption in response to these high prices. Yes, for the first time since 1979, driving in the U.S. decreased on a monthly basis (by 4.3%). It's classic supply/demand economics.

I know there are both liberal and conservative readers of this blog. All the liberals are probably largely supportive of investment and implementation of alternative energy sources (wind, solar, hydrogen fuel cell cars). You conservatives out there, you may be rolling your eyes right now.

But, conservatives should embrace the shift away from fossil fuels just as much as liberals. Why?

1. Isn't this free market capitalism at its best? When the cost of one good or service becomes too high, other more efficient and less expensive goods become more attractive.

2. The majority of money that we are spending on oil is going straight to terrorist countries. Why do we want to fund our enemies?

3. Alternative energy with provide a host of new jobs for young scientists and businessmen, and will promote and necessitate advances in technology.

4. What is so wrong with breathing cleaner air? Recent studies have shown that smog actually increases the risk for premature death.

5. Why are you so resistant to change? What is it about oil that won't let you give it up? Did people complain when the automobile replaced the primary method of transportation (horse and buggy) back in the early 1900s? Did people complain about the arrival of airplanes to replace train and boat travel? Technology is great. If we can get around and power our homes and buildings by cleaner and more efficient means, why not?

I defy you to provide a compelling argument to stop the shift to more solar, nuclear, wind power. Don't bet against Boone Pickens!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Teeth and Economics

The guys over at the Freakonomics blog on the NYT website have merged two of my favorite topics...teeth AND economics. FYI, Freakonomics is one of my favorite books of all-time. If you haven't read it, I highly suggest it, especially if you are into numbers and social phenomena.

Anyway, back to the teeth and economics piece. The piece was partially inspired by a new study that found that women grew up drinking fluoridated water earned 4% more than women who didn't. This effect remained after controlling for many patient-level and county-level factors. This study continues the "beauty premium" paradigm that reveals that ugly people earn less than average incomes, while beautiful people earn more than the average (the ugliness “penalty” for men was -9 percent while the beauty premium was +5 percent. For women, the ugliness penalty was -6 percent while the beauty premium was +4 percent).

Suprising data? Not at all. A nice smile can get you places, and it makes sense that the earnings were higher for the group with nicer teeth. Well, we have to PRESUME that the flouride as a child resulted in nicer teeth as an adult. I would have preferred to see a study of smiles that were actually graded or scored by humans and then had the niceness of the teeth correlated with wages.

Even more interesting was a link embedded within the first part of the Freakonomics post that discussed the value of teeth cleaning. The article again is hinged upon a recent scientific publication. This study was a recent meta-analysis that demonstrated that teeth cleaning (scaling and polishing) did not necessarily improve periodontal health. However, the studies were of questionable quality. Second, I'm not a dentist, but I would think that a twice-yearly would not improve the incidence rate of gingivitis as much as DAILY oral care via flossing, brushing, and mouthwash would. Instead, professional dental cleanings remove tartar, which is much more difficult to manage at home alone.

Finally, while Mr. Ayres seems to abhor dental cleanings and equates them with pain and torture, I find them completely the opposite. In fact, my sentiments completely concur with the comment posted below the article by a man named Jim, in which he states the following:

I enjoy having my teeth cleaned. I think it is like a massage in my mouth. If I had the cash to spend on luxuries, I’d go every month.

I completely agree with you Jim!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crazy Stories

I came across some far-out stories:

1. Astronauts at the International Space Station will soon get their drinking water from some weird sources. Engineers have devised a system that will purify urine and capture moisture from evaporated sweat and laundry water. This sounds disgusting but it does make sound physiologic sense. I've always said that urine is "liquid gold", and now it will only become more valuable!

2. A restaurant in NYC is selling a hamburger for $175. I do not understand this. There is no way it can taste that good. I also feel that high-priced wines at restaurants are somewhat ridiculous. After the price gets above about $50 per bottle, it is very difficult to discern any difference in taste and quality of the wine. Do you agree?;_ylt=ArV9uqkErJDwcp7Px8H.WlIDW7oF

3. An appeals court in D.C. has ruled that paper money is discriminatory against blind people. I've never thought about this, but it is true that it is impossible for the blind to pick out between different demoninations of paper money.

A quote from the article:

...People in their 30s and 40s should know that, when they get older, "they will be able to identify their $1 bills from their fives, tens and twenties," said Pomerantz, of the Council of the Blind.

No worries, our dollar is becoming so weak, that the $5 bill will soon only be worth $1!;_ylt=Aq.eGd7FmRsMhteE2pgTBKkDW7oF

4. "Catch me if you can"...a pilot and stewardess were caught naked in the woods in Pennsylvania. Apparently, neighbors saw the naked man and woman, called the authorities, and a helicopter with heat-seekers was called in to locate them. Don't you think that is a little extreme? Calling in "Blue Thunder" to capture 2 horny 20-year olds? I'm sure taxpayer money could be better spent.;_ylt=Ah9dspxOsmP6KkdyHXTaQv4DW7oF

5. Donkey behind bars- get Mexico, a donkey has been jailed for biting and kicking 2 men. It was put in a regular human prison. That would be a tough cell-mate. Maybe if U.S. authorities arrested aggressive and dangerous animals and put them in jail here, it would serve as a good crime deterrent.

Money quote from the article:

"Around here, if someone commits a crime they are jailed," Gomez said — "no
matter who they are.";_ylt=AuVQla7He_hExw6ufuUetwgDW7oF

Monday, May 19, 2008

Good Week, Bad Week (May 19th Edition)

It's a good week for:

1. Overweight, videogame-playing couch potatoes, as Nintendo has come out with a new game for the Wii, called the Wii Fit. A medical study had demonstrated that playing games on the regular Wii burned more calories than typical video games (but not as much as actually playing the sport). We'll see how many calories can be burned using the Wii Fit.

2. Flying kites, as a marked increase in interest in wind power has investors in a frenzy. Boone Pickens, an old-time oil investor, just placed an order for 600 wind turbines from G.E. The U.S. Energy Department said wind power could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030. This is great news, as we need to have some form of reasonable competition against generation of electricity from fossil fuels in these days of record high oil prices (most electricity in U.S. comes from burning of coal and natural gas). Plus, wind is one of the cleanest forms of energy production. Don't believe the hype? Stocks are good are predicting the future. Just look at the recent moves in the price of some of the wind stocks. Boolah!!

It's a bad week for:

1. Watching a track meet, as photographer Ryan McGeeney was speared in the leg by a javelin, as he was watching the discus throw. Fortunately, he states it didn't hurt very much and he was able to use his camera to snap a photo so that the whole world could see his impaling.

2. Dairy farmers, as a tractor trailer carrying 14 tons of Oreos overturned and spilled them all over the roadway. Rumor has it that residents living near the spill rapidly bought up 300 gallons of milk and starting dunking and eating the oreos before they were crushed and crumbled by the oncoming traffic.

It reminds me of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, the "Muffin Top" episode. In this episode, Elaine's desire to only eat muffin tops causes one of the local bakeries to sell only the muffin tops. Unfortunately, this results in a huge dilemma...what to do with the bottoms of the muffins. Elaine calls in "The Cleaner" (AKA Newman) to take care of the situation. Check out this 1 minute clip to see how "The Cleaner" handles the sticky situation.

3. Stepping in elephant dung, as politicians in Romania are resorting to weird tactics, such as parading around an elephant downtown, in an effort woo potential voters. I'm sure that Romanians are glad that their candidates have nicknames like "elephant" rather than nicknames like wolverine, skunk, and alligator.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Two more very funny videos

Here are two more must see videos. I'm sure many of you have already seen the video of Bill O'Reilly from 20 years ago that was recently unearthed. Think you are having a bad day? Watch his tirade in his pre-Fox News days while on the set of "Inside Edition"...

And, check out this very young kid (can't be much older than 2 years old...right?) give a rousing performance of "Hey Jude"...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Funny Videos

Two funny videos to lighten up your day:

1. A short video on George Bush and his use of "The Google" on the "Internets". It makes me laugh every time I hear it.

2. A clip from Jon Stewart with some great soundbites of West Virginians honestly telling the media why they didn't vote for Obama.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Good week, bad week (May 12th edition)

Good week for:

1. Old rock stars and arachniphobes, as a University of East Carolina biologist discovered a new species of spider and named it after his favorite musical artist, Neil Young (Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi). Oh those crazy scientists! No word yet on how Neil Young feels about his glorious honor.;_ylt=AtINt1O9SrnaX.GCX5EdYw8DW7oF

2. Gangsta rapper wanna-be kids, as the state senate in Louisiana has voted AGAINST droopy-pants. I hate the look, but have to admit that this shouldn't be regulated by state (or federal governments).

3. Dogs' keen sense of smell, as a dog that ran away a pit-stop some 77 miles from the owners home, has somehow found his way back home a week later. I have to admit, I don't think many humans would be able to find their way home if dropped off somewhere that was 77 miles from home.

Bad week for:

1. Imitating Seigfried and Roy, as a Romanian man was arrested for rearing a lion in his backyard. It reminds me of one of the amazing wildlife videos I have ever seen. I have posted the link of the video from youtube, which follows the battle between a poor little baby buffalo vs. a pride of lions, and then a herd of buffalo vs. a pride of lions. It's 8 minutes, but take a break from your crazy day and watch is memorable.

2. Being an "aged" presidential candidate, as John McCain's age continues to be ridiculed by some of the press and bloggers. Check out this blog (provided by blog fan in a recent post in the comments section):

However, lest you think McCain is going to roll-over, let's remember one of the most witty comebacks in Presidential election history as 73 year old Ronald Reagan said at the start of his 2nd debate against Walter Mondale in 1984, "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." This resulted in a roar of laughter from the audience, and, in fact, from Mondale himself, who years later admitted to Jim Lehrer in an interview that he realized at that moment that the election was over. Mondale went on to lose the election decisively, as Reagan carried 49 states, compared to Mondale's one (his home state of Minnesota).

3. Flying "coach" (I mean, "toilet"), as a man allowed on a overbooked flight had to sit in the bathroom on the San Diego to New York flight. He is suing Jet Blue because of his "tremendous fear" without a seatbelt while sitting on the toilet. His he suing despite the pilot informing him that he should feel lucky to be on the plane in the first place. Let's face it, he sure could have gotten a LOT of reading done while sitting on the toilet for that long.

Apple is On Fire!

Folks, if you haven't noticed, Apple's stock has been on a major tear over the past 2 months. It is close to it's all-time high again (all time high was around $200 in December).

I posted the story about the Apple stores being packed back in January ( And, although it initially was demolished along with the rest of the market for the first 10 weeks of 2008, it has made a major comeback.

The major reason for this has got to be the popularity of the iPhone. It is currently sold out on the Apple websites, and stock in the stores have been scant. The new, faster, "3G" iPhone is due out very soon, and customers around the world will be clamoring for it. That's right around the world. Read this article, and you will see that Apple has been inking some new major contracts with wireless providers in Canada, Europe, South America, Turkey, India, Australia, Singapore and the Phillipines. That means millions of new customers and billions of more revenue for Apple.

What does mean for the stock? As you know, I have been long of Apple for some time now. It is riding on top of its 10 day moving average (about as bullish as a stock can get). You can see this on the daily chart below (10 day moving average is the green line). You can see the stochastics confirm the very strong price action (RSI at top and MACD at bottom).

I expect Apple to continue a little higher, but I think it will find some resistance at it's all time high of about $200, as you can see on the weekly chart below. After a brief pull back, I think it will probably eventually break that resistance and head towards a price in the mid-250s. On the weekly stochastics, the RSI and MACD are heading up (circled blue areas). You can see that the RSI remained in the "overbought" area (>70) for some time last May through July and then last September and October (blue box). Thus, if the RSI can climb above 70 again, we could see some significant upside to come.


I am a huge fan of Wikipedia. It has loads of information that is generally quite accurate. Posts by people that are funny or untrue are usually deleted rapidly. There was concern in the past that students in school were simply going to Wikipedia for sources and information for term papers, and most teachers and professors were banning this habit.

However, it appears that there may be a role for Wikipedia in the setting of the academic world. A professor at the University of British Columbia is actually encouraging his students to try to get Wikipedia entries acknowledges as a "featured article".;_ylt=AhWX2LwIbC3hgzfbbtjSHigDW7oF

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Are You Kidding Me?

I found some of these stories unbelievable:

1. Let it go- John Allen Muhammad, the D.C. area sniper of 2003, is asking his defense attorneys to end the appeals and allow him to die, and is requesting the help of the state attorney general to help him as he has tried without success to stop his defense attorneys from pursuing the appeals.;_ylt=AuX1R.GCIaxD_cvsFz.iaAYDW7oF

Please stop wasting taxpayer money on this case. And, although he wants to die, perhaps it would be better to deny him his opportunity at "matyrdom" and let him rot in jail for the rest of his life. Life sentence without parole, that's my vote. Stop the appeals now.

2. Yankees-Red Sox rivalry taken too far- a Yankees fan ran over 2 Red Sox fans in a parking lot after the Sox fans yelled "Yankees suck!" at her outside a bar in New Hampshire. One Sox fan died and the other was injured. This is pathetic...;_ylt=Atn.PNdeUth_4R0WmeYmtQ7tiBIF

3. Wimp- Speaking of the Yankees, A-Rod's wife says that A-Rod passed out during the birth of his 1st child. He always folds under pressure!;_ylt=AgBPEhBVngkDRCP_mTSHNKIDW7oF

4. Wicked leg cramps- A man in Illinois wants to attempt to surpass his recently broken record of continuously exercising for 132 consecutive hours on a stationary bike. This sounds like torture....the leg cramps, sore butt, groin chaffing, and lack of sleep. He is deranged.;_ylt=Aoip7gSYcvq4pkxpDdz85fTtiBIF

Politics Update

Barack Obama has been declared the winner in the North Carolina primary, and Hillary Clinton has a slight lead in the Indiana primary. The battle between these two heavyweight contenders continues, despite the Obama and Rev. Wright scandal, and despite Hillary's big deficit in pledged delegates.

But will it all matter who wins the primary? New poll data suggests that John McCain may have an easy time winning the Presidential election because of the polarity within the Democratic party. Here are the facts:

-Nearly six in ten Obama supporters in Indiana say they would be dissatisfied if Clinton were the nominee.
-In both Indiana and North Carolina, 2/3rds of Clinton supporters say they’d be dissatisfied if Obama were the nominee.
-The percentage of Clinton voters who say they’d choose McCain over Obama in a general election is approaching 40 percent in Indiana.

BTW, I recently criticized Clinton and McCain on their proposal for a "gas tax" holiday. It appears that the majority of the writers and economists agree that this is simply a foolish policy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Good Week, Bad Week (May 5th Edition)

Good week for:

1. Vegetarians, after 260,000 pounds of beef and chicken were recalled for contamination with a potentially deadly bacteria, Listeria monocyotogenes. Veggie burgers have never tasted so good!;_ylt=AuVnLn8NdBMeOlKq5sWtDfADW7oF

2. "Beauty", a wounded bald eagle that had its beak shot off a few years ago and was found starving to death in 2005. After being rescued and hand-fed for 2 years, scientist have designed and crafted Beauty a prosthetic beak. They will attempt to attach it next month. Of note, it is against the law to shoot a bald eagle...hear that Dick Cheney?

3. Flying slower, as airlines have determined that decreasing the flight speed by only 10 MPH, saves between $13-20 million per year in fuel costs. This makes it a bad week for passengers who will have to remain in the cramped confines of coach for about 8 more minutes, on average, on a trans-Atlantic flight.

Bad week for:

1. Going back on your word, as Cardinal Egan was furious with Rudy Giuliani for taking Communion during a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on April 19th at St. Patrick's Cathedral, despite a previous agreement between the Church and Mr. Giuliani in 2000 to not receive the sacrament because of his "well-known support of abortion". Rudy has had a tough year when the number of delegates he received equals the number of times he was admonished by the Church.

2. Eight Belles, the 2nd place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, who broke both her ankles after she crossed the finish line. She had to be euthanized on the track.

Horses are bred for speed. Unfortunately their bones and tiny little ankles just have not adapted to endure the stress of the racing at high speeds with the weight of the high muscle mass.

3. Overactive bladders, after researchers found that people taking prescription drugs for bladder dysfunction, allergies, and high blood pressure that block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine experience a more rapid decline in cognitive function than adults of similar age not on these medications. (it makes sense because drugs used to treat Alzheimer's, although only mildly effective, INCREASE acetylcholine levels in the brain).;_ylt=An7pVVTK9CTY.NFspH5kFfIDW7oF
I actually took some loratadine today for my allergies...I hope it dows noet ajgffecbt m&e toooosdooo mujdch...caguya jgo138nm he$pgyp mguh?

PB & J

Interesting article on Yahoo about the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The testers compared different types of creamy peanut butter on Pepperidge Farm white bread. They found the 365 Whole Foods Organic brand was the best tasting, compared to Jif, Skippy, and Reese's.

The testers also determined that the best ratio of ratio of bread to PB and Jelly is 1 : 0.6 : 0.3 : 1. They have provided a nice illustration if that ratio is confusing to you.

I won't comment on the actual peanut butter, because I have never done a head-to-head comparison. I do have other comments about PB & J:

1. The testers used white bread, but I assure you that the healthier (and I find tastier) way to eat PB & J is on a multi-grain sliced bread (Arnold's 12 grain is great).

2. I agree with the ratio of PB and jelly. In my opinion, ratios are very important in all types of food. For example, the best ratio of cold cuts to cheese in a sandwich is about 3:1. In a burrito, there needs to be an appropriate ratio of meat to rice, beans, and other products. The meat cannot be predominant. For a bowl of cereal, I prefer to pour the milk until it just about touches the top level of the cereal. There needs to be a certain number of chocolate chips in a chocolate chip cookie. The ratio of tuna or chicken to mayo (not sure on the actual numbers) needs to approximate a proportion in which the mayo is only added until enough moisture is there for consistency. Some places overwhelm the tuna or chicken with the mayo and it creates a mess (and a stomach ache).

3. I prefer contrasting the sweetness of PB & J with a salty counterbalance in the form of chips (preferably cheesy-types such as Doritos or Cheetos). Also, a piece of cheddar chesse makes a wonderful compliment to a PB & J sandwich.

4. Peanut butter should not be refrigerated. It makes spreading it very difficult.

5. Does anyone remember the episode of "Happy Days" when Lenny and Squiggy were in some dream sequence, and they were lost in the desert, and the only thing they had with them was peanut butter? They had no water, but Squiggy tried eating the peanut butter anyway, and they couldn't open his mouth. I guess you had to see it, but it was funny.