Daily Archives: January 2, 2010

Hyman Roth, Sandy Weill – separated at birth?

The Times reports on the sadness of Sandy Weill. I say, look at either of these guys and tell me which one said, “I’m going in to take a nap — when I wake, if the money’s on the table, I’ll know I have a partner — if it’s not, I’ll know I don’t.”

Could have been either, seems to me.

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Well okay, I don’t think Greenwich will hit bottom this hard, right?

Cape Coral, Florida – foreclosure hell. Median price fell from $298,000 in 2005 to $219,000 in 2007 to $97,000 in 2009. Ow.

Prices are now so low that inventory is moving. From the beginning of last year through October, the Fort Myers metropolitan area had already had 14,000 sales of single-family homes — more than in all of 2007 and 2008 combined. Roughly three-fourths of the deals were foreclosed homes and short sales, in which property sells for less than the bank is owed.

Yet about three-fourths of the buyers have been paying cash, an apparent indication that most are investors, not ordinary homeowners.

“That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence,” says Cape Coral’s newly elected mayor, John Sullivan. “Where are they going to sell these properties? The party’s over.”

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Full body scanners wouldn’t have caught Captain Underpants?

That’s what at least one expert is saying: the machines are good at detecting dense objects like guns or Democrats but a powder like the explosives this fellow was packed with would go undetected – just as clothes are invisible to the machine, so too are low-density explosives. Makes sense to me.

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Face Book mysteries

I reluctantly signed up for FaceBook because my kids are on it and wanted me to see what they posted there, or something. I know nothing about the site and never check it, but I now get, on a regular basis, notification that “X” wants to be my “friend”. What are you supposed to do with these things? I worry that maybe I do know these people, even if I don’t remember their name, so I don’t want to offend them, but I really don’t want to add another commercial come-on or sales pitch to my Internet life. For now, I just ignore the invitations and they’re piling up out there on the cloud, but is there a better way to find out who these people are before deciding to consign them to oblivion? Suggestions welcome.

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Snake oil salesman

I'll make you a millionaire, son

I always detested that Dallas coach, Jimmy Johnson, but I was still appalled to find him today on the television pitching snake oil in an infomercial for bettertrades.com. According to this smarmy bastard, anyone: retiree, student, even a NYC prison guard can make a fortune trading stocks via the Better Trades method. Didn’t this guy make enough money coaching and endorsing sneakers? How greedy is he, that he’d lure innocents to their economic death, all for whatever he’s paid to sell this crap? Filthy.

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Britain facing coldest winter in 100 years

The debate is over!

That’s why they had to switch from “global warming” to “climate change”. Damn those snowflakes!

To think that just nine months ago “eco-psychologists” whatever the hell that term meant, wanted to declare warming denial a certified mental disorder.

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Thorium – it’s what’s for dinner, next time

Instapundit links to this fascinating article in Wired on thorium, which seems to be a great alternative for uranium in nuclear reactors.

[T] horium could solve the nuclear power industry’s most intractable problems. After it has been used as fuel for power plants, the element leaves behind minuscule amounts of waste. And that waste needs to be stored for only a few hundred years, not a few hundred thousand like other nuclear byproducts. Because it’s so plentiful in nature, it’s virtually inexhaustible. It’s also one of only a few substances that acts as a thermal breeder, in theory creating enough new fuel as it breaks down to sustain a high-temperature chain reaction indefinitely. And it would be virtually impossible for the byproducts of a thorium reactor to be used by terrorists or anyone else to make nuclear weapons.

Weinberg and his men proved the efficacy of thorium reactors in hundreds of tests at Oak Ridge from the ’50s through the early ’70s. But thorium hit a dead end. Locked in a struggle with a nuclear- armed Soviet Union, the US government in the ’60s chose to build uranium-fueled reactors — in part because they produce plutonium that can be refined into weapons-grade material. The course of the nuclear industry was set for the next four decades, and thorium power became one of the great what-if technologies of the 20th century.

Today, however, Sorensen spearheads a cadre of outsiders dedicated to sparking a thorium revival. When he’s not at his day job as an aerospace engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama — or wrapping up the master’s in nuclear engineering he is soon to earn from the University of Tennessee — he runs a popular blog called Energy From Thorium. A community of engineers, amateur nuclear power geeks, and researchers has gathered around the site’s forum, ardently discussing the future of thorium. The site even links to PDFs of the Oak Ridge archives, which Sorensen helped get scanned. Energy From Thorium has become a sort of open source project aimed at resurrecting long-lost energy technology using modern techniques.

And the online upstarts aren’t alone. Industry players are looking into thorium, and governments from Dubai to Beijing are funding research. India is betting heavily on the element.

The concept of nuclear power without waste or proliferation has obvious political appeal in the US, as well. The threat of climate change has created an urgent demand for carbon-free electricity, and the 52,000 tons of spent, toxic material that has piled up around the country makes traditional nuclear power less attractive. President Obama and his energy secretary, Steven Chu, have expressed general support for a nuclear renaissance. Utilities are investigating several next-gen alternatives, including scaled-down conventional plants and “pebble bed” reactors, in which the nuclear fuel is inserted into small graphite balls in a way that reduces the risk of meltdown.

It is surely obvious that I know even less about nuclear physics than I do real estate (well, at least as little – can you go below absolute zero?) but this sounds promising. Too bad that Iran isn’t really interested in electricity generation because thorium would seem to offer an answer to their stated desire for fuel while easing the rest of the world’s fear of Iran having nuclear weapons. For the rest of us, though, maybe this is where we should be headed.

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Coming to Greenwich in 2010?

Unfinished California spec house, once priced at $9.75 million, sells at auction for $4 million. Fudrucker and I concentrated our efforts on projects like these last year, trying to by-pass the auction process. We were successful on a couple but most spec builders defiantly refused to see what’s coming. They can read this LA Times article and find out.

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What the heck do you have to do to be charged with murder in Denmark?

The muslim who broke into Danish cartoonist Peter Westergaard’s home carrying an axe and a knife has been charged with attempted manslaughter.

UPDATE: Now the Times, at least, is reporting that he’s been charged with attempted murder. That’s reassuring, if true.

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Nothing gets by our Commander in Chief

A week later, Obama ties Captain Underpants to Al Qaeda. Last week, Obama saw merely “an isolated extremist” trying to blow up Americans, so I guess he’s learning. That he learned nothing at all from 9/11 until now isn’t encouraging, but we can hope.

Of course, the fact that he still refers to “crushing poverty” in Yemen as if that were relevant is not a good sign. The man clearly sees different than many of us do.

Just to depress you further, read who the US released to free that British hostage last week. I’m sure the Brit thought it was a great deal – our military disagrees.

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