Monday, April 13, 2009

Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp Time

It's spring and rhubarb should be available at your local produce market. A couple days ago we made Blueberry Rhubarb crisp using the recipe . It was so-good. Try it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Financial Crisis

On Friday October 3rd, 2008, president Bush signed the $700B bailout law that will hopefully fix the crisis we find ourselves in now. But will it work, no one knows for sure. NPR's (National Public Radio's) program This American Life presented a program this weekend with the scarey title "Another Frightening Show About the Economy." The program was indeed scarey. The program was played on air this weekend around the country and also is available for listening and download on the web site. Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson report in a terrific program all about the problems today in the Wall Street credit market and why it is so important to all of us. Yesterday, the State of California stated that they will run out of money at the end of October if they can't obtain credit. Many businesses have the same problem. The reporters talked to the actual people in the credit market and explain how it is supposed to work and the problems they now see and experience. They also explain those Credit Default Swaps, those money instruments that no one knows what they are. But Alex and Adam talked to the people who developed these problem items. You will hear how Senator Phil Gramm of Texas managed to get a bill passed in the waning days of the Clinton Administration that specifically outlawed any kind of regulation with these Credit Default Swaps. This was done in late December 2000, just before Christmas and this bill was attached to a huge budget bill that needed to get passed. Nobody in Congress probably knew what this law was all about or what the impact would be. The radio program goes on to show that the Credit Default Swaps are now a big gambling item. This seems like a big long chain and if any one link breaks, the whole thing breaks down. By the end of the program you will know more about CDS than members of congress, the president, and probably most presidents and financial officers of Wall Street firms and banks.
There have been a couple other This American Life radio stories in the last few months that are also related to the financial crisis, on September 12th, just 3 weeks ago, Alex Blumberg reported the story, "Act II, Now You SEC Me, Now You Don't." This story is part of the program, "The Enforcers", and you will find it about 35 minutes into the broadcast. This is a story about how the SEC has been asleep while the crisis has been unfolding. You will find out why presidential hopeful, John McCain wants to fire Christopher Cox, Chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission. Another story on May 9th of this year, "The Great Pool of Money." This story goes into the sub-prime home mortgage mess, how and why it got started. It's full of details and enough information to make you sick. Lets hope this $700 Billion bailout works. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Build Your Own Nuclear Fusion Reactor

It turns out that for several years amateur scientists and engineers have been building their nuclear fusion reactors in their attics and basements. Check out this Wall Street Journal video. The United States and many other countries have been spending billions and billions of dollars for the last 60 years in order to achieve controlled nuclear fusion. The ultimate goal has been to have power plants with unlimited fuel and no environmental pollution. The solution was always 25 to 30 years off in the future. It was that way 40 years ago and it's that way today. But it turns out you really don't need to spend billions and requiring hundreds of scientists and engineers. All it takes is a little study and $500 to $3000 in equipment and supplies. For the more adventurious see.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tell No One

Tell No One is an exciting French movie now playing in many areas. This is an exciting mystery with a chase scene to rival Bullit, but different, on foot. It starts with a violent murder where protaganist's wife is killed. But then 8 years later he gets messages that his wife may not be dead afterall. Check out the New York Times review. The movie was first released 2 years ago in Europe and was a hit and now we get to enjoy a very fine movie. Don't miss this one.

Palo Alto Seismometer Reading, Last 24 Hours

East-West Horizonal Seismometer

North-South Horizonal Seismometer

Very Sensitive Vertical Seismometer
The seismometer data is updated every 10 minutes, refresh screen to get latest display. A sharp short spike is probably us checking the seismometer vault (wine cellar). Send an e-mail if you have any questions. Click image for larger view.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

First Pesto of the Season

Last week we enjoyed our first Pesto dinner of the season. Spring, summer, and early fall is the season for delightful Pesto when fresh basil is available. Here is our recipe. It serves 2 and then a little left over for the next day or extra portions. Serve with fettuccine and a nice chardonnnay wine.
Wash the basil and pull the leaves from the stems. Throw a clove of garlic into the pot cooking the pasta.

1 garlic clove (see above)
3 TBS sun dried tomatoes (Julienne cut)
1 TBS butter
Combine the butter and sun dried tomatoes in small pan and at very low heat (just need to warm)
Now combine in food processor:
3 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
8 almonds
3/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup Italian parsley (remove larger stems)
1/8 cup high quality olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Process for a few moments.
Remove the garlic from the cooking pasta just before pasta is ready and place in processor.
Remove and set aside 1/2 of the sun dried tomatoes and put the melted butter plus remaining sun dried tomatoes also into the processor.
Complete processing the pesto for another minute or 2.

Now dish out the pasta and place a nice portion of the Pesto on pasta and then place the reserved sun dried tomatoes on the very top of the Pesto.


Serve with French bread.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

FCC Hearing on Network Neutrality

On April 17, 2008, the Federal Communications Commission held an en banc hearing at Stanford University. The subject of hearing was "Broadband Network Management Practices." A month earlier, the FCC held a similar meeeting at Harvard University. Comcast got embarassed at that meeting when it turned out that they paid people just to fill a seat in order to keep others from finding a seat. Not to worry, there was plenty of available seats for this meeting. I ate my lunch outside the auditorium before the meeting started and listened to the Raging Grannies. They were singing songs all related to keeping a neutral internet and all very appropriate for this meeting.

Chairman Martin opened the meeting by reading a letter from Ms. Anna Eshoo, our local congresswoman. Ms. Eshoo said that non-discrimination and internet neutrality is very important and that we all must vigilent to make sure that happens. All 5 FCC members spoke, each with a slightly different take on the subject. The issue that brought the FCC to Stanford was the report by Robert Topolski, a Software Quality Engineer, that stated Comcast, his ISP (Internet Service Provider) was sending out IP Reset messages that stopped the uploading and downloading of files using BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer (P2P) communication protocol. Comcast along with 20 other ISPs were invited to this meeting, but only one showed up, Brett Glass, CEO of out of Laramie WY. BitTorrent and other P2P file sharing operations work by spreading the files amongst the users as opposed to a central server farm where the data is stored on central servers, e.g., YouTube, Picassa, etc. These operations pay for the connection to the internet. This is where the problem comes up. P2P users do not pay their ISP for service as a server farm. An individual may sign up for a 6Mbit/sec service, but that rate is not guaranteed at all times or an average rate that is close to this 6Mbit rate. Comcast got into trouble because they were sending out IP Resets for specific applications ( an IP Reset will stop a file operation). Their service agreement never mentioned this. It seemed there was a concensus that ISPs should not differentiate amongst the internet applications the user uses. Also resets are not a standard protocol for controlling internet messages and should not be used. The ISP should just slow down the data pipe when the network is too busy to handle the required tasks. This is the so-called Network Neutrality issue. What needs to happen is that the FCC needs to make sure the ISPs keep from locking out certain applications they find with high traffic. It seems that P2P users also need to pay more money for their monthly internet service. The entire meeting can be viewed or listened at and then click on the April 17, 2008 item of your choice. Check it out.