Friday, March 30, 2012


Laughing here... and crying.

h/t Mostly Cajun

Mega Million Mania!!!

The Wall Street Journal chimes in...

Is Mega Millions’ $640 Million Jackpot a Good Bet?
The money quote:

" .... plots the expected value of a ticket against the size of the jackpot, and finds that it looks more or less like a bell-curve. That is, up to a certain point, higher jackpots mean higher expected payouts. But after a certain point, the risk of multiple winners overwhelms the higher jackpots, and the expected payout goes down."

Got that?


Bell curves and all that stuff still a confusing thing for you?

Still refer to your Statistics course as "Sadistics?"

No worries gentle reader. Let me spell it out for you as tenderly as I do for my children.

The lottery is a tax on people who are bad a math.

Hah! Bet you thought that was the punchline. The end of the post! Nazzo fast Guido!!!

It may amuse and encourage you to know that the writer of that article is bad at math too.

quoth an VP/scientist at work in an email exchange on this article:
The statement above is wrong. The distribution is TWO DIMENSIONAL. To do the calculation, you have to separate "old money" from "new money". Old money (tickets bought in a prior drawing) will never win, so that money increases the jackpot but doesn't decrease your probability of winning THIS DRAWING. New money, on the other hand, does both. The best possible situation occurs when there is LOTS OF OLD MONEY and VERY LITTLE NEW MONEY. Unfortunately, greed being what it is, this situation never occurs in the real world. When the old money is high, people go nuts and drive the new money very high.

The lottery. It's not rigged. Neither is Vegas. ;^)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cats and Dogs Living Together!!!

Dismissal of gun-rights suit upheld by 5th U.S. Circuit...

In her dissenting opinion, however, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod said she disagrees with the majority's conclusion that the Second Amendment doesn't protect an individual's right to a specific firearm unless the government has prevented that person from acquiring others.

Elrod argued the majority impermissibly treated the Second Amendment as a "second-class right" by carving out an exception.

"It is particularly unfortunate for our circuit to endorse the atextual, ahistorical rule that the Second Amendment does not protect particular firearms," she wrote.

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, praised Elrod's dissent and said the group would weigh its options, including asking the entire 5th Circuit to review the case.

"Sure, (Houston) could go buy another firearm, but he shouldn't have to because he already owns one," Esman said.

NRA and ACLU taking the same side of a case?

What forces have unleashed that unholy alliance?!!!

Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
... Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Current events

Current news. Errr, news currents, errrrr current events, errr News about Currents.... Japanese currents...

Nevermind. Call the pun police.

'Ghost ship' off Canada heralds arrival of tsunami debris

An empty Japanese fishing boat drifting off the coast of western Canada could be the first wave of 1.5 million tons of debris heading toward North America from Japan's tsunami last March. The wreckage from flattened Japanese coastal towns - including refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, roo.....

Borderline Nuke Power?

Ok, ok... I admit that subject line is deserving of severe "pun"ishment.

What's that you say? There are problems permitting pipelines and nuke power in the US?

No problem -- more energy from Canada is on the way...

Howz a nuclear border fence sound to ya? Just line 'em up east to west along the 49th Parallel.

What are odds that the State Dept will insert itself in cross border grid issues and impede power flow to south?

Maybe Mexico should jump on this distortion in the market (due to US energy permitting/approval problems). Now that would be an interesting maquiladora industry (only half joking)...

New Brunswick

In 2007, the New Brunswick provincial government requested a feasibility study on building a second reactor at the Point Lepreau site. The 2008 study was conducted by the Team Candu consortium of AECL, GE Canada, Hitachi Canada, Babcock & Wilcox Canada and SNC-Lavalin Nuclear. (Team Candu was set up in 2006 to offer fixed price plants on a turnkey basis, and originally the 1085 MWe ACR-1000 was the intended technology, which would have been the first ACR-1000 plant in Canada.) In mid-2010, Areva signed a letter of intent with the government regarding it financing and building a merchant plant using Atmea (1100 MWe PWR) or Kerena (formerly the SWR-1000, a 1250 MWe BWR) technology. While government-owned NB Power would be licensee and operator, the plant would most likely be privately owned and financed rather than publicly financed from government debt. About half of the output is likely to go to the northeastern USA. There is over 1300 MW interconnection to New England, and in 2007 it imported 12 TWh from New Brunswick.

Proposals have also been made for a third reactor in New Brunswick, mainly for the purpose of exporting power to New England.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Would'ja if ya could?

musing on another up stock market day for my employers stock (this after a nice steady run up over the past few months)...

Getting to that age when people start asking, "So when you plan to retire?" Hey! I'm not that old! Sure I'm the north side of 50. Err, 50-something. What's this fascination with retirement? What's with this expectation of early retirement?

At least people aren't asking anymore about what I fouled up in the wild run up in price prior to Y2K. /heh/

People would say after that monster stock run up, "Oh you work at XYZ company since 1991? Wow...."

Then the bright ones would pause and as the realization hit them, I was:
a) still working and
b) had stalled in Engineering position and not been made a VP or director.
That unspoken thought would flash across their faces. One or two actually did say something to the effect, "What did you do wrong? You should either be retired or a VP by now."

Meh. Retirement looks overrated to me anyway. I have a bunch of friends who had better financial sense/timing who were able to retire early.
Early. Like 40's early. Comfortably.

On balance -- 10 years later? Not uniformly the happiest bunch. Sure some seem content. However, several (most?) are back to working at something regular just for to keep themselves sane.

Me? I reckon I'll retire the day they throw dirt in my face. Yeah, back in '99 and 2000 with the stock market rising and the possibility of retiring around 50 it looked pretty good. Not so much anymore. Work is good for the soul.

It's academic now anyway. Like many boomers, working into traditional retirement years might be my only choice.

In anycase, I think I'd like to stay in the saddle as long as physically possible. Perhaps I'll change focus to have more people/relationship/helps type work. Heh, who am I kidding? I'd likely have to change fields anyway if I get cut loose from this job. Most of the need for my industry specific knowledge has relocated to Asia.

It's days like this in the market for my company stockplan and my401K that I think. "Hmmmm... A couple more days like this -- maybe I'll take a week off before the funeral."

Ya know, just for GP.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pucker up...

Passion fruit. Piles of passion fruit. Falling off the vine around our pool area. They usually just get in the way until we get around to collecting them for the trash

I collected a couple handfuls today and decided to try putting them to use.

For now I just gutted them and stored the sweet stuff in the fridge...

What do YOU do with passion fruit?

Saturday Short Term Thinking Rant

On the subject of ROE (return on equity)*...

*Stirred up thoughts as a result of my wanderings on some investment forums.

I've seen how public company employers and suppliers of mine have pushed ROE up in the interest of impressing Mr Market in their quarterly report.

It's often done at the long term expense of the company's competitive position. e.g. Manufacturing sector slows = idle plant capital equipment = unload capital equipment/capacity = increased ROE.

Then comes the market upswing... Duh-ohh.

During the slow down it was "damn the torpedos" and "nevermind the business sense of our short term action." "Sell that excess capacity!"

Nevermind the obvious industry or technology cycle. Nevermind your offshore competitors have anticipated the obvious and built idle capacity to cover the next 3 year up cycle.

Yup, you guessed it. Sure as spring, along comes the ramp up in demand and it's all a****les and elbows to make big new cap-ex plans and ramp up/debug "new" expanded capacity. It's "all forward full" and justify that recapitialization with a 3-6 month ROE payback to show Mr. Market what good little MBA's you are.

Nevermind being late to the new demand curve.
Nevermind missing the opportunity to get a pricing premium for having the standby capacity available early in the up cycle.

Huh? What'ch you talkin' 'bout Willis?
Ok, let's back up and fill in a bit of color...
When your customer pulls in orders early to meet their early demand the supplier can negotiate some nice spikes. There's a brief window of opportunity where your customer will take product "at any cost." Well, not at ANY cost but you get the idea...

There's also the special position opportunity movers are in to capture the followon business for the duration of the cycle.

OTOH, by coming late to the party the ROE-geniuses we talked about first have to price their product even lower still. They have to find a way to take away the demand captured by the early movers (who had kept capacity).
/rant off/

Perhaps ROE a more useful (or safe) number for an actual owner/operator to rely on. The private industrialists** I've known have freedom to look at ROE with some intellectual integrity as a consistently, internally, calculated benchmark. However, my impression is the private industrial types tend be much more interested in ROIC and FCF (Return on Invested Capital and Free Cash Flow).

**I see some parallels with the way Warren Buffet looks at cash generating companies.

fwiw, This is my impression of some large Asian offshore publicly companies I work with too. They may be pubilically traded but don't have the manic market visibility/reporting pressure on them for each qtr. Often they started as family businesses and still retain much of that investment culture that looks forward to positioning the enterprise for subsequent generations. They tend to be held by smaller groups with longer view of business more akin to private owners.

It's the difference, perhaps, between leadership and management by spreadsheet. Some of this stuff doesn't fit neatly into spreadsheet cells.

Things like Leadership, vision and intuition born of experience (or birth as a freak of nature business genius a la Jobs, Buffet) are hard to reduce to qty that factors into a spreadsheet.

Or maybe I'm just a grumpy over-the-hill... ;^)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Not as bad as you think (?)

Maybe. Maybe not.

I recently read "Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization" by Lars Brownworth.

Without writing a review I'll just say it was time well spent. Short, sweet, readable. I'll be passing it along to my college/military children as recommended reading. Hopefully it will displace some small portion of the tripe and fractured fairytales being taught as fact in our institutions of "higher" learning.

Oops, did my right wing just pop out there? Pardon me whilst I tuck that back in... Happens a lot in an election year.

Did'ja know the Roman Empire lived on a 1000 years after the city of Rome fell? While we think of that era as the Byzantine Empire that is a fairly recent appellation. They thought of themselves as Roman and their empire as the Roman Empire right up to the fall of Constantinople in the 1400's.

Somehow this American Legion online article connected to that in my jumbled mind.

The Myth of America's Decline

A lesson from Byzantium, err... Roman Empire -- and Yogi Berra. It ain't over til it's over.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Warrior, Poet, Gentleman

Last week saw the untimely passing of one Captain Carroll LeFon, USN Ret. aka Neptunus Lex blogger extraordinaire.

Lex was a gentleman. I was raised by one and was reminded of much of my upbringing by Capt LeFon's example. He was the same age as I and classmates with my childhood math cram buddy. Yet Lex outstripped me in many measures of maturity. I took a "lower slower" career route through vo-tech to an A&P, then enlisted service and later, finally, completing a B.S. while finishing active duty. Those things ...toughened me in ways I am thankful for but also roughened me making me unsuitable for some roles and places. Something of my upbringing was put to the rear.

Capt LeFon's temperate example online was a bit of "iron sharpening iron" on me and a reproof by example for which I am grateful. I am better for knowing him from a distance. Titus 2:6 says to the effect "older men teach younger men to be temperate." In this case not older but more mature passed on the lesson.

Something written by a graduate of Canoe U from an earlier era comes to mind...

"Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide the lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as "empty," "meaningless," or "dishonest," and scorn to use them. No matter how "pure" their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best." -- Robert Heinlein --

Lex was a man of faith. In keeping with his gentlemanly ways he was not overtly evangelistic. Rather he was a man of quiet faith. The sort whose way of life could cause the unbeliever to ask him to "give account of the hope that is within" (I Peter 3:15,16).

So to a brother in arms and a brother in faith I say no goodbye but rather, "Til then."