Sunday, September 18, 2005

housing prices

There's an interesting article here about using Internet hedge funds to predict what'll happen to prices. You can find current hedges for various housing markets here. Theoretically, they may be a good predictor of housing prices. If I'm interpreting the numbers right (I don't have more than a few minutes to try to understand them right now), it looks like the market doesn't expect San Diego's median home price to go above $643K by November. Fascinating stuff, and it might be worth keeping an eye on it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

new toy!

I've been wanting a good way to compose blog entries offline and then zap them over to Blogger. Writing them in a text editor didn't quite work: blogger's HTML doesn't quite match the standard web HTML I'm used to, so things came out looking a little . . . odd.

Yesterday, though, I found a new toy: you can configure blogger to let you e-mail your blog entries. And my e-mail client, Thunderbird, lets you write a message but wait to send it till you have a network connection. So now I'm taking this thing out for a spin: How well does it work? Is there stuff I can do with Thunderbird that Blogger won't handle? And how does composing in an e-mail client change the way the way I write?

brilliant rant on bike commuting

Cycledog's posted a nicely written rant on bike commuting here.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

welcome Coppertop

Please welcome our new guest commentator and analyst Coppertop! She'll be posting on the Gazette from time to time.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

747 lands in 2800 feet

3rd week of classes and folks are down, hurricane news is all over the air, nasty fight shaping up for the Supreme Court, etc., etc.

Time for some cool news.

This site gives a blow-by-blow description of an amazing feat: landing a 747 on a runway only 50 feet wide and stopping within 2,800 feet. They were retiring the 747 (with 107,000 flight hours on it!) and delivering it to an air museum. You can really get a feeling for the pilot's skill with that last picture, where the 747 totally dwarfs the runway: every single engine is hanging off the edge. It looks like a sidewalk. And check out the second picture: note how close he put it to the end of the runway to get as much distance as possible.

Friday, September 02, 2005


This came from a friend in Houston, who got it from a local Houston mailing list.
I need your help. We have approximately 200 persons at the Astro Inn (Cavalcade/45) and the Western Inn (610/Airline) who have exhausted their money on their rooms and are now basically going hungry. I was able to get some food from the Farmers Market and Gabby's today and a church was going to feed them tonight. There were families sitting in front of the Astro Inn homeless with no money...If you can get the word out that any help with food (bread, lunch meat, milk, casseroles, water, etc and toiletries (diapers, toothpaste, shampoo, clothes) would be so appreciated. Councilmember Garcia is getting together a meal for Sunday or Monday but the need is immediate.

The food and articles can be taken directly there or I can pick them up. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call. I know we all want to help besides writing a check and this is a way to see the true grief these neighbors to the east are enduring. Thank you and please help!!!!!

Officer Beverly Bisso, Heights Police Storefront
Unfortunately, it's tough to deal with immediate problems like this at a distance. If you have contacts in Houston, and you want to help with a situation like this one right away, get your contacts to donate stuff and then mail 'em a check to pay them back. Same deal for other parts of the country where the refugees have landed.

To donate generally, there are the Red Cross, Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Charities, and the Salvation Army, among others.

If you're trying to contact friends or relatives, try Craig's List. Also, the New Orleans Times-Picayune has set up two searchable fora: I'm OK and Who Are You Looking For?.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

lightning guns and laser blinders

Courtesy of Slashdot, here's an interesting article on an entrepreneur in the nonlethal weapons business. It both gives you a flavor of the world of weapons manufacturers in the "war on terrorism" age, and talks about some of the odd non-lethal weapons that are in research or deployment, ranging from microwave systems that make you feel like you're being burned, to lasers designed to temporarily (or permanently) blind people, to guns that shoot bolts of lightning. It's pretty surreal, especially since this is just the unclassified stuff.

art and technology

I've been reading minutes of old meetings for the board that regulates professional engineers. At one point, they were talking about electronic signatures. There's a quote here from President Clinton as he signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act:
Just imagine if this had existed 224 years ago, the Founding Fathers wouldn't have had to come all the way to Philadelphia on July 4th for the Declaration of Independence. They could have e-mailed their John Hancocks in.
It might be a signature, but it wouldn't be a John Hancock. I think art and technology were closer in the old days when we knew less technology but remembered a lot of art. It seems like there's a disconnect now, at least in a lot of cases. Not all of them -- Apple usually has a good blend, for instance -- but often things are either artistic, with minimal functionality, or functional with bits of art poking through like grass through a sidewalk.

The advantage? Technology that doesn't have to sacrifice functionality on the altar of being pretty. Art that's not tied by practicality. The disadvantage? Clunky black and gray laptop computers running clunky operating systems. Awkward-looking gas stations, electric substations, and train yards.

I guess the question is whether the tradeoff is worth it: the fact that it's so common argues in favor, but the popularity of the iPod argues against.