Heading Out

Seeking the winds that help to sail on Shakespeare's tide.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Trouble, trouble oil and bubble

It is interesting to note that China is buying up the excess production from Venezuela, and even new production. This has to be from the heavy crudes that have otherwise not found a market. Given that Saudi excess production is is heavy sour crude, and that the Chinese have been looking at getting into the oil sand production in Canada, this would suggest that they are getting out ahead of the pack in buying up the remaining currently difficult to market heavy oils. Unfortunately this means that when production of the more desirable sweet crudes drops the volumes that the rest of the world would anticipate moving into will have already been committed to China. Now if they could just find the tankers to ship the oil . .

Incidentally one of the current pinions of the US economy has been the use of the dollar in oil sales. It is interesting to note that the Chinese appear to have decided that with our budget so far out of balance, that enough might be enough. Which may also be why Bill Gates is also betting against it. Sounds as though trips to Europe are going to get even more expensive.

Given that Britain will apparently start being a net importer of natural gas this year, and of oil within the next two or three, it would appear that we had better start finding other places that can replace their contribution to the US supply. I guess that would most likely mean Libya who would like to see their production rise to 3 mbd.

All in all this could be an interesting year.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

There has to be a name

So each of the six of us expected that they would get to the meeting point, be the only one there, and could then go back to a warm home with a great sense of moral rectitude. Instead of which you saw three faculty, a doctor, a dentist and an Associate Dean walking alongside a highway in orange vests peering through the snow to pick up the garbage over a two-mile stretch. It took from 8 am until 11 am and despite the ground cover we found about 30% more trash than usual. (In better weather there is usually at least a dozen in the party).

Then burning CD's for class all afternoon, and a late, light dinner before watching "I, Robot" on DVD at home and bed. What else are weekends for ?

And now today there is the first homework, and then more CD's to prepare, but first I need to go and exercise - up, up, you slotheful ferret !!

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Post Academia

Today I signed the papers saying that the paperwork for the toy was complete, and that the test program was acceptable. Now we have six days and it will be shipped off to us. While we did not get my little job done, it was because firstly the individual who knew what he was doing is in China, and so we got assistant who did not know what I had done wrong. However together we worked it out and then found about four different things we had not been warned about (and that the promo video fails to mention).

However in the end we did get something accomplished and if not what I had hoped, it was fairly obvious why not, and so I will try again to do the project as soon as it is put in place and I have fixed my mistakes. (Plus we had obviously overstayed our welcome).

There is apparently some demand for my toy, and there are not that many around. So as we sat at a more humble eatery tonight the thought came that I could, since I will be playing with my new toy over the next year, use it as a place to continue mental activity by becoming a Toyman once I give up the Administrivia. Must give this some thought, but not tonight, since we leave at 6 am.

A final whinge however - as someone born within a stone's throw of the brewery - I do wish that folks serving Newcastle Brown would keep it at a reasonable temperature, freezing my tonsils off with a good swallow does not let me taste the real merit of the brew.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Academic Eating.

While accepting the basic argument of Dr. B. in regard to normal academic eating (I occasionally find myself sneaking out for lunch at around 3 pm if I haven't forgotten to eat it entirely). There are however occasions, conference receptions, recruiter lunches etc where the chance for free gorging should not be passed up.

This as an excuse for this evening when after three intense days learning how to do neat things with my new toy, the Sales Manager for Toys Inc (not their real name) took us out to dinner at Jax ( a high end place in Minneapolis - his name was on the matchbox covers). Unfortunately this got into a bit of one-upmanship. They want to convince us how great they are (6 months after we placed the order) while I got into a bit of been there-done that, which might have appeared a little ungrateful. But in the end a good time was had by all.

Unfortunately it appears that the fourth day of our course, tomorrow, where we had hoped would be more telling us what to do, has the sound of becoming more of a commercial. Which would be a pity since I spent the last two days working up a little thing for them to do for us tomorrow that should take possibly 3 or so hours, and I was looking forward to their seeing if it would work.

It was interesting talking to our instructor today. Apparently over half the job shops around Minneapolis have closed and the remainder are running at less than half capacity. Most of the work has gone to China. And when we discussed cost differentials, it got to be looking very grim. So exactly which countries were going to loan us money to modify Social Security ? And exactly why were they going to be interested in loaning us the money? Run that by me again, please!

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Student Days

This should, I suppose, make me more sympathetic. But on the common physician's argument that if I can do it and learn, then surely so can they . . . .

We arrived late Sunday and by 9 am Monday were in class, where apart from a lunch break for brought-in Pizza, is where we stayed until 4:30 pm. Came in last night with just enough energy to crawl to the bar to spend the last free drink token, and gulp down a piece of Walleye. Then it was upstairs, a quick skim through the blogs, and a realization that I did not bring a program that I needed to use for some of the work. And bed by 9 pm. (And clock checks at 2:30; 3:45; 4:15; 5:30, and up at 7:00).

Today was a repeat, except that we did not quit until 5:15 pm, and they brought in burgers. Though I am becoming acclimatized a little, and we were all kept interested and actively working on problem solving all day today (yesterday we learned how). Back we go tomorrow and then on Thursday they will let us play with the real toys. And so tonight we went out for an early meal at a local establishment (menu - good steak, steak, ground steak - all the same size). And after a quick skim through the blogs at about 9:15 pm I think I have barely enough energy left to make it to bed.

I think it makes it a little easier in that even while learning, I am thinking about how to present this when it becomes our turn to teach this. But for now, alas there is not enough get-up-and-go left to comment on the USA Today piece on Social Security, which left a remarkable amount of information out of their story that might have led to a different conclusion. Nor is there enough for comments on the way oil is going - nope it all got-up-and-went, and so it is time to follow suit.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Yipee for technology

Let it be noted, for the first time tonight we had all the family on iChat with two separate video conferences going on simultaneously and the iChat words to tie it together. Finally got all the addresses straight, now all we can do is wait for Apple to come out with Tiger and we will be able to do it on one screen for all participants. And maybe before then I'll remember to pack a camera mount so that I don't have to hold a camera in one hand and type with the other. Note that we are tonight in different cities though they were using the Bishop's laptop as well as the Advocate's iMac in the same room in New York. They tried pointing a video camera from the laptop to the iMac so that I could see the Engineer, but it was pixelating too much and we lost sound. He is still on the West Coast and I am up here - but no longer alone, hee. (Or is it that you can run but you can't hide).

The Actress talked about Johnnie Carson and what a great influence he was. He was part of our conversation in part at dinner. I remember stopping to eat in his home town once, just so I could tell the Actress that I had. (They were having a wedding at the restaurant). I mentioned his 6 pages in the NYT to her, funny what they included and left out.

Folk up here are very polite, but they keep asking why we are here in a slightly incredulous sort of way. By the way if you stay at the Holiday Inn North - the maps on the Web are totally wrong. As in there are three addresses that are the same in this town, and the map shows one of the wrong ones. How do I know - well guess who was the Navigator. So tomorrow it's back to being a student for four days. The problem is that there is a practical exam at the end - oops!

The Advocate confessed he is searching diligently to find this blog (he doesn't know the title only that it exists). Soft Chuckle!

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Missing the boat

I mentioned that we went to a financial adivsor the other day for the first time. It seemed wise to get some advice as we move into the "days of the setting sun." However, given my thoughts on Peak Oil I had a thunk as to where we might put a small part of our nest-egg. Well a couple of weeks have passed and we might get some sort of agreement after I come back from the frozen North on what might be a good investment. In the interim the stock I thought might be worth putting money in has gone up $7 a share, and we still don't have any. I am beginning to suspect we didn't find the best advisor in the Universe.

But it will be an interesting exercise (and perhaps an expensive one) since this, after all, what our Good Leader is demanding that we fall in line and do.

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Times change

Tonight was one for staying in - but having spent the day redoing lectures and burning CD's (no nobody has a burner that allows multiple copying and my dear desktop has a virus checker that takes 2 hours to do each CD, and the only get around is to shut down and reboot) so going out seemed a good idea.

We went to an old favorite that has just been taken over and turned into an "English Pub." But alas when in the UK those are the places where I eat most often and this wasn't close. Which is sad. So in a couple of weeks or so we might go back to see how it turns out. But until then I think I am going to switch off this overworked mind and watch the Directors cut of "King Arthur" - given that I never made it more than half-way through the book.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Wow ! Was that wrong!

Ah! Sweet Raven!





You Are 33 Years Old



33





Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.


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A few minutes of normality

The Clannad CD "Bandba" is gently playing as background. The Actress found a new gourmet store that provided ingredients for dinner, the wine is a 2001 Vega Sindoa Merlot. Modesitt's "Ordermaster" lives up to his usual quality - for this evening that is more than enough. (On another computer the Actress is seeking to find when her audience first had sex - what can I say).

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Tomorrow and tomorrow

Well as the last post suggests, I was just settling into a quiet relaxing night when I was reminded we had a social event (a musical evening) tonight and so on there to do the usual social thing, and hear a reasonably good program from a variety of campus sources.

It might be appropriate to explain that in normal circumstance I would have let the junior faculty present this morning on the program they were largely running. We had, however, been used as a bit of window dressing to get this rather large multidisciplinary contract and now that the money was here it was clear that there was an effort to move the money from the area we play in, to others. Given that, it seemed wiser in the short term that I do the report. Hopefully we have shifted the focus and this won't be necessary again - but I suspect that at the time of the next review we may face the same attacks. (The panel had five members, four external and one internal - the internal one was the only critic and it was one of these "didn't so and so at company X do a lot of this back when." I was careful to explain that he had not and that his approach differed significantly from what we were doing. What I did not point out was that so-and-so had applied for his first job here after graduation and had not been chosen. Further, in the area cited the company X had hired me recently as an expert witness in this area of interest, since it is an area pioneered here a couple of decades ago.)

Our next meeting, on an entirely different topic, is at 7 am tomorrow, and then back into contract negotiations (live) with our Indiana monitor, and (via phone) with our Canadian friends.

Dr. B. is talking about 80 hour weeks, in part I suspect it depends on what is defined as work. Since, given what I do, almost the entire day 7 am - 10 pm could be defined as work (yes we had a working lunch).

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch

So here I sit, my second dose of Alzheimer's medicine (G&T) sat beside me. I missed all the Inauguration events today (for the first time in 10 such events that I have had the chance to see since I came here). As I watched the speech I felt that I wanted to be less cynical. But alas there is that saying "fool me once, . . . "

Interesting that today I spent in major presentations to contracting officers on ongoing projects. Was up into the wee hours working on the two presentations for this morning. (At 3 pm yesterday another colleague commented that one of the grad students would have to work beyond 5 pm to get the data I needed for one of the slides - he thought it wrong I was putting the guy under that sort of pressure - what can I say). One of the reviewers this morning (a panel) commented on how they were "happily surprised." Yeah, because we had been set up to fail at this point so that they could take our portion and move it into a more politically correct program. So we survived, which makes it interesting to see where they are going to now have to make the cut. If I don't seem sorry about not losing my head blame it on the medicine. (By the way this is the Ohio project).

So we come out of the meeting and I have to turn to the team and say that no I could not join them for lunch because I had to go talk to my other visitor, who wanted to review the Indiana project. So we were out at lunch and one of my Dl class members was at the same restaurant and came over and introduced himself. The first one I have met and he had to drive 400 miles to say hello (he is I think the closest of the class).

So we come back to the office and there is this e-mail saying that our friends in Canada have decided to accept our proposal. I promptly (and in the presence of our Indiana contracting officer) went into the Administrator's office and drove my head deliberately into the side of a filing cabinet. We can now, barely, meet the deadline for that work - even if we weren't behind on two more. (Also had a call from Michigan where we apparently have blown a whole theory into small pieces and they can't decide whether to can us or fund us for more pain). Our Indiana program needs a new statement of work to give us another year of funding now, so that we can be funded beyond our current effort. And I am leaving again on Sunday.

Where did I put that gin bottle ?

T

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It's not funny, hee.

Still quietly chuckling about the scientific report cited byprofgrrrrl though given that we are heading off for a week in Minneapolis on Sunday I shouldn't be laughing. Wonder if they really did ?

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Technology moves, but which way

Mel was commenting about the start of the semester, and the joys of the copier. Alas my class this semester is DL and since I post Powerpoints with sound this has produced files that are too large for some of the class to download. So, after chopping an inadequate amount of wood for the fire, went in today to post new lectures and then to burn two lectures per CD, in multiple copies - which seems to take forever. Must find out tomorrow whether we have some form of disc copier anywhere on campus. (Printing paper notes seems to have been easier and faster, after we moved from that purple thing to electronics).

Just got done when I got an e-mail from another student asking for a set of copies - snarl! Well he'll have to wait until tomorrow since I am still two presentations short and two monthly reports missing and I just folded laundry and well, never mind, you get the picture . . . .

Hmm, even with a fire on the furnace kicked in after the sun went down, must blaze the fire some more . . .

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Saudi Oil production

I have this odd problem (as does Matthew Simmons) with working out the actual state of Saudi Oil production. Today, for example, the Aramco President said:

"We are now engaged with the Haradh (oilfield) increment, which will add 300,000 barrels per day of capacity; by 2007 we will have completed the Abu Hadriyah-Al Fadhili-Khursaniyah field development programme which will bring online another 500,000 barrels per day; and by the end of the decade, the giant Khurais will be on stream with in excess of one million barrels per day of capacity,"
.They are currently producing about 9 million barrels a day (mbd) which comes from the following fields, as various articles have indicated:

Abqaiq 400 kbd; Abu Sa'fah 200 kbd; Berri 300 kbd;
Ghawar 4.5 mbd; Hawtah 200 kbd; Hout 300 kbd;
Khurais 300 kbd; Marjan 270 k; Qatif 800 kbd;
Safaniya 700 kbd; Shaybah 600 kbd; and Zuluf 500 kbd.
This adds up methinks to 9.07 mbd.

But Abqaiq is in serious decline and so is Ghawar apparently so that the 800,000 bd from Qatif has been brought on line to match these declines. The current surplus
"We are committed to maintaining the surplus production capacity at 1.5-2 million barrels per day level to meet emergencies," he said
seems to be in heavy crude that is not easily refined by todays refineries, if I remember a quote from Aramco from earlier this year.

The thing is that if Khurais is already producing 300 kbd then the increase will be only 700 kbd, and when you add this to 300 kbd and 500 kbd then you only get 1.5 mbd and that by the end of the decade. And this will not match the declines in Abqaiq and Ghawar (which appear to be about 360 kbd/year).
UPDATE
Sorry I should have also included the quote from the top of the story to explain why I am perhaps the teeniest bit incredulous. The article opened with:
"World's largest oil firm Saudi Aramco today said it plans to boost production capacity to 12 million barrels per day next year and to 15 million barrels per day in the near future."
This means they have to add 3 mbd next year apparently (though if they are doing 9 and have 1.5 in reserve then they only have to add 1.5 mbd), assuming that there are no more production declines. Since there will be, then they have to add say about 2 mbd next year and another 3 to 4.5 mbd by the end of the decade. It is in light of those numbers, and the clear lack of any indication where they might get the oil, that causes this minor Huh! to erupt. Not saying that they don't have it, just that where they are currently saying that it will come from does not add up.

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Temptation and England

Just called Mum and we chatted about the situation with the Teacher. This is where it gets frustrating being this far away, but she will call other relatives tomorrow and see if something can be done. She herself had a bad night, after eating fish and chips (without the fish). One of the staff, however, came by with a laced cup of tea at 3 am and she dropped right off thereafter.

This reminds me of Dad's funeral when, at the wake afterwards, while the womenfolk were drinking tea and eating sandwiches etc. the men would come up and ask for "tea without milk or sugar" which apparently is the code for whiskey (Scotch of course) served in a tea cup. Luckily we had enough and I caught on reasonably fast.

L.E. Modesitt just came out with a new book "Ordermaster" and so, with the fire beginning to blaze, and snow outside, I am being torn between going back to read the earlier story in this series (Wellspring of Chaos) or being the obedient little faculty and putting sound on a couple of my Distance learning lectures, and then finishing the two presentations for next week. Temptation, temptation . . . . .

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More on Social In-Security

I see that Kevin Drum has taken the same quote from Paul O'Neill had carried it forward, rather than looking back, as I did.

The numbers become even worse, since he assumes that contributions are stretched over 45 years, which would make us poor faculty work even further into our dotage. For example our new Secretary of State designate did not get her final degree until she was 27, meaning that, under other circumstances, she would need to work until she was 72 to nest-egg that million. And in that circumstance, I doubt that she would be atypical.

His basis is also the 12.4% which works out at $6,000 a year, while I was doing the $9,600 to get me, and the good Dr. Rice, retired at a more enjoyable age.

In either case, the numbers are just unreal. But we can anticipate that it will all be part of the big push to buy all that stock - yes as Kevin points out to get to the funding required would have the retirees own the entire stock portfolio of all public companies. Unless of course the price rose dramatically because the retirees had to buy it, in which case those currently holding it could get very rich - while the return on investment would get reduced.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Let them eat cake.

I notice that in today's NYT (yes I need to install a Blogroll) there is an editorial by Paul O'Neil in which he comments that the goal of privitization of Social Security should be:

"We should ask ourselves what would be a worthy aspiration for the financial security of retired Americans in the years ahead. My answer is that we should establish a process that will produce a substantial annuity for every American at retirement age.

By substantial, I mean at least $1 million."
Well, as someone who invested back then, and who thus has the experience of a tax-sheltered investment over the past 36 years let me just point out that this would have required that I invest $800 a month in the market, to achieve that target. Um, hate to tell you this but if I had done that we would still be living in a trailer, neither of my kids would have had the education that they received, etc etc - because almost all of my salary would have gone toward that investment.

It just illustrates that those who govern us, whether kings, queens, emperors or the financial oligarchs who currently run this country really have no idea of how the majority of us really live.

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My music lists

Motivated by profgrrrrl among others.
From the iMac that is used to transfer my LP's and tapes

1. Gillean Uldhuis (The Uist Lads) - Billy Marshall - Songs of a Skye Man
2. Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley - The Rock N Roll Era - Presley
3. Concerto No 4 - Beethoven Bicentennial - von Karajan
4. Fantasia super - Douglas Major - Masterworks by Bach
5. Dublin in Vigo - The Chieftains - Santiago
6. Salmon tails up the water - unknown - The Northumbrian Small pipes
7. Oro - Maire Brennan - Maire
8. Matter of the Heart - Aeone - Point of Faith
9. Once in a Very Blue Moon - Nanci Griffith - Once in a Very Blue Moon
10. Histoire de Coeur - Edith Piaf - La Mome
11. The Entertainer Rag - Boston Pops - 90 Minutes with
12. Dancing Queen - ABBA - Greatest Hits
13. Uirchill an Chreagain - Clannad - Anam
14. The Dam Busters - Grimethorpe Colliery Band - Movie Brass

This from a total of 5645 songs, 15.2 days and 26.38 meg and I only have about a third of my stuff on there.

and then from my iPod (i.e. ones that I play more)
1. Waterloo - ABBA - 20th Century Masters - the Millennium Collection
2. Welcom Wedergeboort - Gunter Bauweraerts - Midwinter
3. Herne - Clannad - Legend
4. Love is my Reason - Harry Secombe - This is my lovely day
5. Don't cry for me Argentina - Olivia Newton John - Making a good thing better
6. All things bright and beautiful - Grimethorpe Colliery Band - Brassed Off
7. God Bless America - Band of the Black Watch - International Tour
8. Stewball - Lonnie Donnegan - Lonnie Donnegan 1956
9. Lonestar - Norah Jones - Come away with me
10. Flower of Scotland - Steve McDonald - Highland Farewell
11. Amazing Grace - Royal Scots Dragoon Guards - The Best of the Pipes and Drums
12. Peperit Virgo - Anuna - Invocation
13. All Souls Night - Loreena McKennitt - The visit
14. Sabre Dance - Katchatchurian - Canadian Brass
15. Motet - O mors moreris - Anonymous 4 - The Lily and the Lamb

This out of 1430 songs (about 6.3 meg on a 20 meg machine I haven't got round to filling up). Guess this shows I really am an old ferret, after all.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Too late a response on Social Security

The Actress is practicing the flute. Before she began I read out Jimbo's definitions of dorks, etc. We decided I think, that I am a geeky bookworm. OK, I think I can live with that. (I also read the comment about practicing music being nerdy - and ducked).

Today was spent preparing for our big presentation on the Ohio project next week.
Our industry advisor came and worked with us. The meeting was broken so that we could all go and make phone calls at lunch. Mine was from the Teacher's son. His mother, my aunt, is now showing greater signs of dementia and does not want to go into a home. I suggested he ease her into it by getting her to go "on holiday" there a week a month, and then as time goes on to increase the times. It was the way Mum did it with Dad.

I noted on one of the political blogs tonight that polls are showing that the message that Social Security is in trouble has already been sold to the public at large. You would have thought that someone would have learnt from the Swift boat fiasco that these things have to be refuted immediately otherwise it is too late, and the initial message sticks. And it looks as though its going to be too late again. Grrr.

Incidentally in my earlier post on Social Security I mentioned that our actual experience in investing since 1968 earned us a fair bit less than Larry Lindsay has been going around saying that such an investment would have generated. I ended up running the numbers and we averaged about a 5% return over the period, whereas it seems he was projecting a 7% return, at least as I ran his numbers. The difference is such that the investment in the market will give a smaller return than the current process.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

First impressions can be wrong

Well why not? Blame Dr C

I am nerdier than 75% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!


Into the office by 8:30 am and two hours of e-mail response, etc and then a quick wander around to kick the odd tire and see what had happened while we were away. Students had done a couple of things that turned out much better than I had hoped, prior to the review of the Ohio project. This will happen next week, and I called a sub-task group meeting tomorrow to make sure that we cast this in the best light possible for the review. Unfortunately our sponsor from Indiana wants to be here the same day, and our friends from Oklahoma also want to drop by. Given that we are all disappearing to Minneapolis for a week this makes life a little complicated schedule wise, and the Administrator was not here today to bail me out of this mess. So we compromised. On my way to an admin meeting the Szlachta mentioned that an unfunded experiment he had run had produced a rather startling result. One of the jaw-open, teeth-fall-out, types of result. We'll just have to see if he can repeat it.

Turns out that my judgement of the Duchess re-appointment was not correct. Since apparently she was not the first choice and the reasons that others turned it down matched the comments that they had made during the interview process (our currently changing top administration). This may or may not help much in the days ahead when she has to bring some warring factions back into a common camp, but it ameliorated my opinion of the Prince Regent a bit (presuming he was telling the truth).

She and I shared an angry glare at a meeting this afternoon, over a trivial issue, but one I was not supposed to feel as strongly about as I do. So I suspect I will not be high on her buddy list for the next few. Just another problem to send to the back of my mind. Speaking of which one of the potential side effects of Nexium is reported to be a headache - well I guess that might explain where this one came from.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Home again

We came back to the usual cold, empty feeling of a house unoccupied, and so the first order of business was to build a fire. Which required splitting logs. Being in unintelligent mode (this seems to be happening more often) the log is placed on a soggy pile of bark and chips - swing - Kersplat! Yup all over the clothes - welcome home!

I have been a bit remiss in not following much for the past few days and thus missed the mention of Dr B and Profgrrrl by Yglesias. Reading the comments to the post I think I much prefer the ladies, to his other referents, though for some reason I have unfogged on my still-to-be-installed Blogroll. I must also learn how to do trackback, since this was a reason for doing the comments through Haloscan. Alas both now go on a list.

The Duchess was re-confirmed in office. I think it a mistake for at least four good reasons, and may rant about this at some other time. One for example is that it is the Dauphin off making sales pitches for one of her Departments. But then being away I may not have heard the full story yet.

There are large stacks of messages about current contracts running out, new ones needing statements of work, meetings to attend this week, and others to reschedule, and my first class was supposed to be today. Yes indeed. Welcome home !

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Monday, January 10, 2005

A Quixotic Day

As the Muse allows, so we have now come back to the motel room. The day is over and filled with small vignettes that provide a final memory.

We were up early and tense but dressed and drove down to pick up the Engineer and the Advocate, who had arrived after midnight and stayed down at the airport. We came back in time to join the family brunch. None us us seemed to have much appetite, and so on to the funeral home.

After the viewing and the necessary certification we were sat, en famille, in the adjacent congregation room, waiting for a much larger event to conclude in the adjacent chapel. The Rabbi enters and comments to the Advocate that he gathers that the Advocate will be entering a civil union this coming summer (a surprise to us who thought it might have been a marriage). And a definite surprise to others in the family, not familiar with the partner's gender. They discuss the relative benefits of civil union and marriage as they relate to adoption (this was a day of surprises).

We move on. At the graveside the Writer (Esther's son) is half-way through the eulogy when there is a screech of brakes on the immediately adjacent road, and a car drives into the back of another, which was waiting to turn into the cemetery. The Writer turns to the Rabbi and asks the prevailing protocol. The Rabbit suggests we continue and we do. The Advocate speaks and we are all in tears. And then it is over, the soil is scattered, the coffin lowered, and we move off.

Back at the hotel the immediate family collect and visit. Then we immediate four return to the restaurant (Zuckerello's and Fish Company on Commercial in Ft Lauderdale) where we had dined so well on Saturday night. Tonight perhaps not as well, though still the fish was excellent.

Drop the boys at their hotel (the Engineer leaves before us in the morning) and back where a quick check of the e-mail shows that the Dauphin will be talking to a major potential sponsor tomorrow about a current effort we have been trying to put together. But while I am here, my colleague in the effort is in Kuwait and she won't return until Thursday. Que cera, cera.

Back at the room we finally look at the bag of clothes that the nursing home had provided as that which Esther had left when she passed away. As we go through we realize that none of the garments were items she would have bought or worn while still the stylish lady that she was. But we have no thought for this, save only that there are no memories here.

The Advocate had taken the stuffed animal she cherished to the end, and I had made the CD of pictures that we gave out to those who came. We are very emotionally tired and so to bed, and back home on the morrow.

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

The frailty of life

As the family gathers for the funeral, one realizes again the terrible pain that all those who have lost family and friends in the tsunami must be going through. In our case the end was a relief from pain and suffering. We will gather for the funeral and interment and there is a sense of closure. For those thousands, particularly the tourists, whose families are too far away to be able to do anything but pray and wait by a silent phone, the agony must be long and there will, sadly in too many cases, not be an answer that will allow closure. Grief is an emotion without bounds of language, race or any of those other barriers which, too often, those seeking power use to divide us. There is, frustratingly, no adequate response that we can give.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A sad but inevitable day

The Actress's mother passed away early this morning. This comes just six months after her father died. And so the day has been spent in cancelling appointments, getting a couple of reviews out, final checking the last White Paper, and getting things planned (or not there were a couple of "well, you're going to have to take care of it!"s).

We will be heading down to South Florida on Friday, and have already discovered that this is not the time to go looking for motels down there, but we managed. I say we, but in reality the Actress deals with things by becoming very busy (she's now cleaning again). I tend to just sit or stand and my mind just drifts. So she has been making all the arrangements - which are by now almost done.

The end was in many ways a relief since Esther has been under critical hospice care for a week, and for the last year has been intermittently in this condition. We were never really sure that she knew when her husband died.

The Actress called an Aunt to tell her, and the Aunt asked that the obituary not be put in the local paper in the town where she lived (and where Esther had spent most of her life before they retired). And then asked that we not put in age, but since this is one way that folk can track ancestors and also because we had already called it in we could not go along. Turns out she still does not want her children to know that she is 94.

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Undue optimism and Social Security Privatization

To follow up on my comment yesterday and the current debate about the benefits that investing in the stock market would bring to those of us who retire. I was particularly interested by an article in Roll Call (which subscription the Advocate gave me for Christmas) in which Morton Kondrake says:

"Suppose I had been able to open a personal savings account in 1967. How much better off would I be?

Larry Lindsey, Bush’s former top economic adviser and a booster of his plan, calculates that if I’d started an account at age 28 and invested one-third of my and my employers’ payroll taxes in a stock index account — up to a maximum of $1,000 a year — the account would now be worth $157,000 and pay out a monthly benefit of $911 when I retire."
Well as it happens I started work here in 1968, which is close, and from the beginning put money in a tax-sheltered annuity. I am not an expert in the stock market and also with this plan had limited options with investing. Largely, therefore, it has just accumulated over the years, although four years ago I did diversify some of it more widely. I looked at how much it is now worth last night. Not being a "top economic advisor", but rather your more typical tax payer in this regard, I did not do as well as Mr Lindsey suggests. In fact on a pro-rata basis my $1,000 a year generated around $100,000 instead of the $157,000 that is suggested above. Thus if I were to invest this for an annuity I would only get around $600 a month instead of the $900 cited above. The Roll Call article continues
" Two-thirds of my and my employers’ payroll taxes would still be invested in government bonds through the Social Security system, giving me an additional benefit of $1,179 for a total of $2,096 — a good deal better than the $1,787 a month promised in my annual Social Security statement. "
Well if I add the $600 to the $1,179 I get $1,779 which is less that the current amount.

"Timeo Daneos et dona ferentes".

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Of fires, finances and Social Security

Well another day of budget manipulation, in this case for the Indiana project, trying to do the first part of the estimate for next year. Plus we had to work out if we could hire more students, and though nominally we are incredibly busy, the question as to when some of the new work will come in made me too nervous to approve any additional ones today.

I came in today thinking that there was almost a clean calendar for the year. Then we had to schedule a trip to Cincinnati. No problem I can go at the end of the month. Just get that arranged when there is a small reminder that we have a major review of the Ohio project that week, and if I want any more money I had better be there. Oops, I crawl out of the office and kneel before the Administrator to confess to being an idiot. So the schedule is checked, and there is a possibility in February. No problem, I can make that. Arrangements are made. Shortly thereafter the Administrator comes in with a brochure for the Sewer Cleaning Conference in Nashville. If you think that the MLA parties are fun you can never have stood in the midst of 10,000 sewer cleaners with open beer taps at each corner of the room. But I have to go - remember that meeting that I went to the wrong town for, well the next one is run with this, and I had better be there - oops! No grovelling piteously to ask forgiveness didn't help. I will reschedule Cincinnati later in maybe March.

Came home to a glowing fire tonight, it truly is a most relaxing heat, and with the weather so miserable outside. But then had to go out and chop more wood, so there is a price to pay.

I am mildly amused by some of the comments about the Bush Privitization Plan for Social Security. Mainly because when I first came here it was suggested that I put some money into the Tax-Sheltered Annuity scheme that the campus had with one of the Teacher Associations. Well I did and so ever since we stuck $200 a month into this and since it was ongoing from when I started it was never anything I thought about - though I am now glad that I took the advice of a colleague and did so. It was never any spectacular increase and we switched companies a couple of times, but today we decided that perhaps there should be some order in the finances and for the first time visited a financial planner. (Putting two kids through college meant we haven't had anything to plan with until recently). And so tonight I will pull out the papers and see what it actually ended up amounting to.

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Monday, January 03, 2005

A Day in the Life

Jimbo is now starting to take a more interesting view on the construction of blogs - which in a way makes me feel lazy since I can see that I really ought to tidy this up and put in a few more of the features that he talks about.

But I am still not sure what my goal with this is, since the subjects tend to bounce around. There is some sense of trying to create a little personal history, but there is not the amount of life's detail that one finds, for example at profgrrrl and I haven't learned how to put in cute cat pictures yet (Ours is also a lot older). Though there is some of that. We had a meeting today, for example, to decide how to revise the budget for our Canadian friends. We had originally costed the work out at twice what they had budgetted. So we have now split the difference (while cutting out a bit of the work) and now we wait to see how it works out. The problem is that most of the budget is getting ready to do the work, doing much more or less doesn't make a huge difference. On the other hand the work itself should give some really valuable results. Well we sent it off, and now we wait and see.

Also got another of the White Papers off today - we decided not to send in one of them, since there is just not going to be enough time.

And then of course there are the multiple changes going on here, with incipient news of the fate of the Duchess - one suspects she survived, from some of the comments made today, as we all spent too much time chatting over coffee etc.

And there are the odd soap boxes, of which the Peak Oil thing seems to have crept out of left field to bite my curiosity. I had thought I would be spending more time right now discussing the relative merits of different Photoshop treatments for restoring old photos. And visiting other sites gets me considering things I want to do before I die. Though I suspect there is a certain greater urgency to get some of them done in this case.

Well I guess I still don't know where we're going, but we'll stumble along some more and see where another semester will get us.

But it's still too addictive.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Of fires, oil and England

We had a very quiet New Years, after deciding not to go to either the party or the folks next door. It was, as they say, just one of those nights. But then last night went to visit a colleague who retired about five years ago. After getting through some health problems he is now quite gleefully becoming an artist - a relatively new idea for him. And so they were talking about meandering over into Tuscany and while he paints she will take the odd cookery class. Aaah ! Now that sounds more like a good way of spending a few years.

One of the comments he made on deciding to do art is that as he gets older a lot of the other relaxations will require more effort than he might put forth, while this one may not. Furthermore he is getting to be good at it already.

Peered into the papers quoted at The Energy Bulletin and see that Peak oil is getting some attention in US News and in The Boston Herald. There is even an article on how wise I was to buy a wood stove from The Guardian, though as I sit here tonight we haven't lit it in over a week because it has been so warm. That is actually good since we didn't buy any more wood this year and only had about two cords left. We use it more because it is a more pleasant heat (we have a tile stove) but it takes about 4 cords a season of wood that has to be cut shorter than usual. But given the hint, I think we'ss get some green wood stacked up this summer, then all I have to do is split it. I do about 10-15 logs a night and that keeps the house pleasantly warm until we have both left the following morning.

Mum was fine today, after having been taken out by the Nurse's older daughter (Reefer - the Rigger's sister) just before New Year. She mentioned that she had trouble sleeping the other night and the night staff came in with a cup of tea. It was definitely sleepy tea apparently since it sounds as though it was at least a third brandy. And it worked.

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