Friday, October 31, 2008

Another Friday, another bank.

This time it's Freedom Bank, of Bradenton, FL.

That's two banks in two weeks, people. ("Alpha Bank and Trust" of Alpharetta, GA failed last week). We guess we have a while to go before Omega bank folds - though they tell us the failure rate will go up before it goes down.

And just what's the world coming to when the "Freedom Bank" fails? Is it a giant metaphor for our growing indebtedness? Is indentured servitude going to make a comeback? Is debt-slavery going to be more than just a phrase thrown around?

Should we all just move to Iceland?

Today's Tea

Today's tea will feature Mango Screwdrivers, in addition to the usual teas and comestibles. (This week the cheese plate will not be fresh, however).

Rumor is that RV will be joining us again. MS is taking the week off from taking the week off.

Due to popular demand, we will perhaps start a bit early - say, 3:30?

See you then!

Another reason to drink California Wines

Heavy metals in European wine...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The IPCC was wrong!

Climate change at the poles is man-made

Scientists refute sceptics by proving that human activity has left its mark on the Arctic and Antarctic

The Independent, By Steve Connor, October 31

Changes to the climate due to human activity can now be detected on every continent, following a study showing that temperature rises in the Antarctic as well as the Arctic are the result of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases.

It is the first time scientists have been able to prove the link between the temperature changes in both polar regions are down to human activity and it also undermines climate sceptics who believe the warming trend seen in the Arctic in recent decades is part of the climate's natural variability.

The findings contradict the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said that Antarctica was the only continent where the human impact on the climate had not been observed.

The new study shows that Antarctica has been caught up in the changes to the global climate over the past 60 years and that this warming cannot be attributed to natural variations.
Happy Halloween!

Three weeks to go.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Board meeting today.

There's a board meeting today.

The bad news is that due to its late start time (1:00 PM), opportunities for seagull food may be significantly diminished.

Probably there will be cookies, though.

Monday, October 27, 2008

SJ just mailed 'em in this morning.

SJ just mailed 'em in this morning, and they were excellent anyway.

Thanks SJ for the latest batch of peanut butter brownies.

Not sure why they were cut up into such small squares - maybe to preempt in-flight crumbling?

Is algea not telling us something?

Is algea not telling us something? Like why there's a hot pink feather boa draped on his chair? Hmmm?

Did you know?

Did you know that 1 in 5 extant mammal species is a bat?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Today's Tea

Today's tea will feature two special guests.

MS is here, enjoying one of the many days off she has lately.

RV will be here, having apparently given up being a good worker bee for his employer, who is giving him the boot soon.

The cheese plate will be fresh - too bad RD can't be here to enjoy it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Four Weeks To Go

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Goldfish update

Not that there's anyone here who doesn't know this, but Veronica has some new digs. They're spacious and sparsely decorated. Very elegant.

Maybe she'll have a housewarming one of these days.

Oh, and NR is back from the East.

GOP spent $150,000 on clothing for the Palins?

From the Guardian:

The Republican party has spent $150,000 (£92,000) on clothes and accessories since late August for Sarah Palin and her family, according to records of party spending.

The Republican shopping sprees, including a $75,000 jaunt to the upscale store Neiman Marcus, began showing up on financial disclosure reports in early September, just after Palin was chosen as John McCain's running mate.

Palin often depicts herself as a homespun product of small-town "real America"on the campaign trail, but she was revealed last month to be working with a secret team of stylists on sharpening her dress sense.

Today's reports on the Palin family's elaborate spending habits – a $295 pram was among the purchases as a treat for baby Trig, according to – could hurt the Republicans' credibility. The election is less than two weeks away.
There is some question as to the legality of these expenditures...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Word of the Day

Courtesy of Joe Biden comes today's Word of the Day:

Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin Augeas, king of Elis, from Greek Augeias; from the legend that his stable, left neglected for 30 years, was finally cleaned by Hercules
Date: 1599
extremely formidable or difficult and occasionally distasteful

Augean stable
Function: noun
Date: 1622
a condition or place marked by great accumulation of filth or corruption

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe Reports: Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., on Sunday guaranteed that if elected, Sen. Barack Obama., D-Ill., will be tested by an international crisis within his first six months in power and he will need supporters to stand by him as he makes tough, and possibly unpopular, decisions.

"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

Not only will the next administration have to deal with foreign affairs issues, Biden warned, but also with the current economic crisis.

"Gird your loins," Biden told the crowd. "We're gonna win with your help, God willing, we're gonna win, but this is not gonna be an easy ride. This president, the next president, is gonna be left with the most significant task. It's like cleaning the Augean stables, man. This is more than just, this is more than – think about it, literally, think about it – this is more than just a capital crisis, this is more than just markets. This is a systemic problem we have with this economy."
Yeah, man...


Today, the 12 year old turned 13. A teenager in the house. Yikes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Buffett's buying...

Buffett's buying. Some think he may be opining under some duress.


Another Tea without NR. How are we holding up?

Today's tea will feature freshly juiced (in more than one sense) apple juice.

See you at 4:00.

Friday Potpourri

First, a definition:

What's a pier loan?
A bridge loan that can't be sold.
Best Joke:
How to define Optimism?
A banker that on Sunday irons 5 shirts.
The TED spread has dropped below 4!

Dr. Roubini likes to party and has a facebook page.

Rudimentary fingers were already present in the ancestors of tetrapods, not later evolved.

Not only is Joe the Plumber NOT a plumber, he owes $1200 in back taxes. How are you going to buy that business, if you can't even pay your taxes, Joe?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Did you know?

Did you know that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was an assistant to John Ehrlichman?

Paulson was Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense at The Pentagon from 1970 to 1972. He then worked for the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon, serving as assistant to John Ehrlichman from 1972 to 1973, during the events of the Watergate scandal for which Ehrlichman was convicted to a prison sentence.

He joined Goldman Sachs in 1974, working in the firm's Chicago office for Manmeet Taneja. He became a partner in 1982. From 1983 until 1988, Paulson led the Investment Banking group for the Midwest Region, and became managing partner of the Chicago office in 1988. From 1990 to November 1994, he was co-head of Investment Banking, then, Chief Operating Officer from December 1994 to June 1998; eventually succeeding Jon Corzine (now Governor of New Jersey) as its chief executive. His compensation package, according to reports, was US$37 million in 2005, and US$16.4 million projected for 2006. His net worth has been estimated at over US$700 million. Paulson has personally built close relations with China during his career. In July 2008 it was reported by The Daily Telegraph that: "Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has intimate relations with the Chinese elite, dating from his days at Goldman Sachs when he visited the country more than 70 times."
We're not sure that The Daily Telegraph can say that about Paulson and the Chinese, can they?

When is a plumber not a plumber?


'Plumber' says he has no plumbing license

COLUMBUS, OH - Joe the Plumber, American's most famous tradesman, said Thursday he doesn't have a license and doesn't need one.

Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, the nickname Republican John McCain bestowed on him during Wednesday's presidential debate, said he works for a small plumbing company that does residential work. Because he works for someone else, he doesn't need a license, he said.
Is it us, or can they get nothing right?

UPDATE: From: 'Joe the plumber' isn’t licensed

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he works under Al Newell’s license, but according to Ohio building regulations, he must maintain his own license to do plumbing work.

He is also not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he’s not a plumber.

Need a diversion?

Need a diversion? Explore this dystopic vision of our future.

Today is Ether Day

Today is Ether Day. (Not that we should need it after last night's debate).

On October 16th, 1846, Dentist Dr. William T. G. Morton (1819-1868) anesthetized a patient so that Senior Surgeon Dr. Warren could remove a tumor. There was quite a crowd present. Dr. Warren's comment after the successful surgery was, "Gentlemen, this is no humbug."

There is also the claim that Crawford Williamson Long, M.D., was the first surgeon to use it as a general anesthetic, on March 30, 1842, more than 4 years earlier than Dr. Morton.

Today is also Boss' day. We don't know who to use the ether on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wait. There was a Depression before the Great Depression?

Apparently so, and its conditions seem more like ours...

On the plus side, Roubini is now only forecasting the worst recession in 40 years. Whew!

Paul Krugman Wins Economics Nobel!

Dr. Paul Krugman, of Princeton, has won this year's Nobel Prize in Economics. Congratulations, Dr. K!

Some people are not amused. From Fortune:

Today's announcement that Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize in economics, although not earth shattering, indicates that outright political partisanship is not a deterrent to winning. This is not as tragic a moment in western civilization as the sacking of Constantinople in 1453 or the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, but it suffices as one of those sad moments we will regret over time.

Others think things could go badly for Krugman:

One day after the Nobel committee announced that Paul Krugman had won the 2008 Nobel Prize for economics, colleagues of Mr. Krugman voiced concerns that winning the coveted award could turn him into an egregious [expletive deleted].

At The New York Times, where Mr. Krugman is an op-ed page columnist, and at Princeton University, where he is a professor of economics, co-workers of the newly-minted Nobel laureate were reportedly bracing for the worst.

"I think it's safe to say that Paul had pretty high self-esteem before the Nobel thing went down," said one of Mr. Krugman's Princeton associates, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But now he's walking around like he's Jay-Z or something."

("Hackable") Debate Tonight!

Tonight's the last chance to sneer at the candidates together in long form.

Remember, whichever wins, we all lose. It's a question, though, of how much you want to lose. (We're going negative here at HSI - it's that time of the campaign).

If you'd like to join in, Current_ has teamed up with Twitter for "hack the debate". Attempt to get your comments on the screen crawl at Current TV (comcast - Channel 107) via twitter. It's more fun than watching the TED spread meander around 420 bps (and that's basis points, not bits/second).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Are Coin Tosses Biased?

Preliminary conclusions say yes!

Preliminary analysis of the video-taped tosses suggests that a coin will land the same way it started about 51 percent of the time. "It's a gem-like example of what we know that isn't so," Diaconis says. Though a skeptic since childhood, he believed that "if you flipped a coin vigorously, it was going to be fair".

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Two more down

Main Street Bank, Northville, Michigan and Meridian Bank, Eldred, IL have been closed by the FDIC.

...And by the way, have you Met Life? Are you happy about that?

UPDATE: Morgan Stanley looks to be taken over by Mitsubishi [Update: 21% stake, guaranteed by Uncle Sam], and The Great Unwind has begun:

Some of the world's biggest hedge funds – SAC Capital, Lone Pine and Tiger Global – all revealed they were sitting on double-digit losses this year. September's falls wiped out any profits made in the rest of the year. Polygon, once a darling of the London hedge fund circuit, last week said it was capping the basic salaries of its managers to £100,000 each. Not bad for the average punter but some way off the tens of millions plundered by these hotshots during the good times. But few will be shedding any tears.

Times really are getting tough.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Tea (Post-prandial)

Today's tea was lightly (though definitely) attended.

JM, RD, HD, WL, RA, AZ and AO were all in attendance. NR is off to Russia - luckily the dollar is strong this week. NT is off to cut some trees down. Brigitte never made it.

The financial news is still not good, but the Bank of Jamaica says to not sweat it, and there are some bullish signs. Don't believe them. Where are Alan Abelson and (the old) Louis Rukeyser when you need them.

It looks to be another interesting weekend ahead.

That One

Oh, and if you're interested in finding out about "That one", you could do worse than following the link!

h/t Bérubé

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Today's rumor is that something BIG is going to happen tomorrow.

Maybe Lehman's CDSs will only fetch $0.10 on the dollar. Maybe MetLife has issues? Or Morgan Stanley?

it's lehman. tomorrow the bonds settle out a about 10 cents. 400bn in CDS's on lehman debt. someone is getting a $360bn beating. coincidence that suddenly AIG needs another 37bn, doubt it. MS, MS, and the whole insurance complex likely victims. piles of hedge funds as well.
CR has Krugman saying:
Stock prices are, however, the least of our worries. The money markets are [still !!] frozen; the TED spread is 4.14%. (CR: now 4.23 9:00 AM - 4.46...)

G7 meeting tomorrow, IMF-World Bank over the weekend. Now is the time for major action — an announcement of coordinated capital injections, liquidity measures, and more. If we’ve had nothing except vague assurances by Monday ...
and finally, from "You Cannot Patch a Busted Dam With Water":
One of the reasons central bankers panicked into mass rate cuts is a huge mass of adjustable rate mortgages is about to reset. The rate cuts were a big attempt to force down LIBOR...

Rate cuts failed big time to stem the surge in LIBOR.
Dow 5000 anyone?

Update: What do you know? GSIG is holding up... (or not).

Update: Oh, and: "International Trade Seizing Up Due to Banking Crisis (Updated)"

Brigitte is fitting in well.

Brigitte is fitting in well. We don't think that she's got what it takes to make it in Engineering, though.

She was seen napping in the arms of one of the members of our marketing staff this afternoon. She seems to like to hide herself under the litter in her cubicle, as a way of saying, "Please leave me alone, I'm creating.

She's much too artsy and temperamental to make it in the overly scheduled, highly constrained world of engineering. Maybe she's training under KC for a spot in the band. They need creative types.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Today's news

ED is going to be temporarily replaced with a (quite cute) guinea pig. We see that Brigitte is already in training.

SJ brought in some really good homemade peanut butter chip brownies. WL has promised to vote for her if she ever runs for anything.

And the Fed has created another acronym, the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF). The CPFF will buy non-asset-backed short-term commercial paper from illiquid corporations. This is quite an innovation, to say the least.

Voici Brigitte:

Monday, October 06, 2008

Jim Cramer is on the Colbert Report

You can't blame the Bush administration.

Oh, get out now! Your ATM will stop working NOW!

(But you can trust the banks!)

The Marketis SCARED!

Should I invest in fedora's and soup?

Well, why not....

How about Gold?

(English accent: Gold has never lost value!)

Cramer is for it because they pay his BiLLS!

Do not Panic!

Who says Government doesn't listen...

Who says Government doesn't listen! We wrote to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office last night, and have just now received a nice reply. Here's what they wrote:

Hi Smashed,

A list of the candidates is on our website at the following link:

A preview of your ballot with the candidates for your districts will be available on the website shortly.

If you have any further questions please feel free to email or call us at (617) 727-2828.

Elections Division

Sunday, October 05, 2008

30 days to go

Time to make up our minds, people.

Consider Cynthia McKinney! (Assuming you live in a non battleground state).

Friday, October 03, 2008

Boston Grower is "pumped up"

kinda like the national debt - particularly after today.


SHARON - Darkness and fog shrouded the ranch houses receding into the inky blackness of this forested suburb. Standing in the damp grass of a field, wearing galoshes, shorts, and a long-sleeved T-shirt, Steve Connolly held aloft a portable work lamp, brilliantly illuminating an otherworldly orange orb that looked as though it had crash-landed in his yard.

For five months, he has slaked its thirst with a garden hose, shaded it from the sun with a cotton sheet, kept off the rain with a plastic tarp. He regularly fed it an exotic recipe of ground bone, blood, fish, molasses, and cow and chicken manure. Now more than 16 feet around and weighing an estimated 1,878 pounds, it is packing on 11 pounds a day.

In a week, when he loads it on a truck and takes it to Frerichs Farm in Warren R.I., Connolly hopes it will be the biggest pumpkin the world has ever seen, smashing the record of 1,689 pounds and possibly coming in at more than a ton, an accomplishment that is to competitive pumpkin growing what the 4-minute mile was to track and field.

Happy Friday

In honor of today's burning man slideshow, Tea will include fireballs, whatever they are.

See you at 4:00.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Penicillin is BLUE-GREEN

Penicillin is blue to blue-green, not gray and hairy.

Interestingly, not all "cultivars" of Penicillium chrysogenum produce penicillin. And, these molds produce other things, including:

It is the source of several β-lactam antibiotics, most significantly penicillin. Other secondary metabolites of P. chrysogenum include various different penicillins, roquefortine C, meleagrin, chrysogine, xanthocillins, secalonic acids, sorrentanone, sorbicillin, and PR-toxin.


The airborne spores of P. chrysogenum are important human allergens. Vacuolar and alkaline serine proteases have been implicated as the major allergenic proteins.

Definitely not all fun and games.

Debate Tonight!

I wonder what a moose in the headlights looks like.

... And finally, art imitating life a bit too closely.

UPDATE: CC has provided us the full version.

UP UPDATE: Bérubé is back, and he has some thoughts about Palin, debating, and Bill Kristol.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Public Service Announcement

HD will be presenting what will, no doubt, be a compelling slide presentation at 4:30 PM this Friday (at and during Tea) of his adventures at this year's Burning Man festival.

Please prepare to be amused and amazed.

The Crisis is Over

Oh, not that Crisis.

AZ is back, still on the doxy, but feeling quite a bit better, and happy to be here.