Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beer Pong Video Game

OMG, this is hilarious.
Probably the greatest game on the planet, and now, captured as a video game. Apparently Nintendo and the Wii has launched this game, and parents are in an uproar.

I make no representations here, only that I loved this game back in the fraternity.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quantas Jet and the “Oxygen Cylinder”

A recent Quantas flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong had to make an emergency landing after a hole was blown out of its fuselage at 30,000 feet. Miraculously, the pilot was able to land the jet liner, and no one was hurt. From a system safety point of view, it’s amazing since the failure of a system is built upon the serial dependence of all the system’s part’s failure rates*…Redundancy is thus required for these complex systems. I’m talking about an airplane in this context, but the same goes for all systems.

Preliminary investigations apparently are pointing to an oxygen cylinder that was housed in the cargo area of the plane. These cylinders store the oxygen for the masks that deploy in the event of a rapid decompression. The theory is that the cylinder, which holds pressurized oxygen, ruptured, and this rupturing created a force that blew the tank out of the plane. The plane’s fuselage, now compromised, proceeded to widen.

I hope they are right. This sounds very ominous to me, and Quantas has recently had a series of issues with its flights (who hasn't really?). So either you can draw the conclusion that their service maintenance has been an issue, but either way, it’s a potentially scary development. The best evidence to support the oxygen tank theory comes from one of the passenger stories. Apparently when the oxygen masks deployed, one passenger complained that their mask did not provide oxygen. Let’s hope that’s true.

* System Failure...The reliability of a system is the geometric series of each independent part's reliability...So if s system has 3 parts, and each has a reliability of 99% ( i.e. each fails 1% of the time), then the system's reliability is 97.0% (97% = 0.99 x 0.99 x 0.99). You can see how system engineers need to be build redundancy in their systems because as systems become more complex and have more "moving parts", you cannot escape this serial dependence. Safety is truly about your risk tolerance. Since you cannot escape this fundamental law, the game becomes, how many failures can I tolerate, which ultimately leads you to the economic benefits vs. costs of building the system you are designing. Which is again why, if you read my post on antibiotic resistance, you realize that nature is truly efficient in its design. Everytime you look at a plane, it is truly amazing we can put a piece of metal in the sky. I'm quite certain that when a bird sees a big plane, they probably say "that's amazing...the wings aren't moving..."

Cryptosporidium, Antibiotics, and Doodie in the Pool

The WSJ reported yesterday that you should be wary of swimming in a public pool these days. Seems that there have been several outbreaks of illness with people who were swimming in a pool. The cause was found to be a bacteria called cryptosporidium. At first glance, you might find yourself laughing, thinking back to the famous scene of Bill Murray in Caddyshack (one of the all time great movies) biting into a Baby Ruth bar after cleaning the pool. Or your might ask, why the heck would the WSJ pick this story up?

Well the significance of this story is more related to why there haven’t been outbreaks in the past. Prior to these outbreaks, Cryptosporidium could not survive the chlorine in the pool. The fact that people got sick from this bacteria suggests that there is now a strain that is chlorine resistant. Wow, that’s a bit scary. Bleach is chlorine, and chlorine is a strong oxidizer, commonly used to kill germs, etc. Now while the concentration is of importance here, the bigger picture is that there is now a strain of bacteria that has demonstrated the ability to survive chlorine, where as in the past, it could not. That’s the definition of antibiotic resistance. While it’s sucks to think you are now swimming in a toilet, the implications are more far reaching.

Antibiotics are used very frequently these days to treat infections, etc. The thing about these new powerful antibiotics are that they are indiscriminate. They kill the bad bacteria causing the infection as well as the good bacteria that lines your gut. But most importantly, there are some bad bacteria from time to time, that figure out a way to survive the drug. Since bacteria in general replicate so quickly, they pass along this genetic mutation that gives them their resistance to subsequent generations. The bottom line is that if the evolutionary mechanism that the resistant bacteria develop is effective, then these bacteria will survive the subsequent antibiotic treatment.*

There is enormous research around antibiotics, and if given the choice, you should think hard about taking one. It’s really not that the bugs are better at generating genetic diversity and passing along traits that enhance their survivability any better than humans, or any other living organism. Their generations play out on a time scale much faster than ours, and this simple fact puts us at risk every time we take an antibiotic.

* For example, tetracycline used to be the antibiotic of choice, but bacteria developed resistance to tetracycline. Tetracycline entered into the bugs, and disrupted the bacteria’s ribosome. The ribosome makes proteins that are necessary for the bacteria’s survival; disrupting the ribosome keeps the bacteria from multiplying. The molecular biology basis for resistance to tetracycline is that the resistant bugs developed the ability to pump the drug out before it could disrupt the ribosome. Self-preservation on the part of the bacteria resulted in the ability to pump tetracycline. This trait was then passed on to subsequent generations (“survival of the fittest”). It should be noted that tetracycline is a bacteriostatic (keeps bacteria from replicating) versus a bacteriocidal (kills bacteria).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Press Pass Sheets for the Talking Heads

A long time ago, Willy and I went to the Vet to watch an Eagles game. Merrill Reese, the voice of the Philadelphia Eagles, works the booth with Mike Quick. Merrill often played golf with us at TVGC, and invited us to the booth before the game. It's a really cool operation.

In football, they have a spotter who sticks a thumbtack into a board that has player numbers and names on a grid. There is a board for offense and defense, and basically, while Merrill and Mike would talk, the spotter would put the push pin into the number of the player who was making the play. This way, Merrill could quickly glance down and see who was making tackles, etc. since the game moves so fast with lots of players in the mix. If you've never seen, it's an amazing operation.

Well, having signed up for, you can see the press passes that the talking heads get for calling baseball games. It's an extensive piece of reporting, with stats and factoids galore. Here is one page (there were 9 pages total) from a recent Atlanta Braves game...
Click to enlarge

Congrats to the Newlyweds!!

The Happy Couple in Costa Rica

This past weekend, my kid sister got engaged!!! I just wanted to post and congratulate them again! Welcome to the family Pete! Good job on the ring!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Charlie Morton to Start Against St. Louis

Charlie will get the start against St. Louis tonight at 7:00 PM. The Braves are batting .177 in losing efforts. The kid's stuff has been good, despite the lack of run support.

Good luck Charlie, and let's go Braves, how about hitting the ball for the kid? Remember CM, you're the same "rook" that threw up and in on Kendrick when he crowded the plate in Anaheim, and then set him up with heat to get him with nasty offspeed stuff. Tomorrow doesn't matter, go git 'er done.

Google Killer...

Not really, but at least competitor. Cuil (pronounced "cool") is a new search engine that professes to cover more of the web. Competition is great, it drives technology forward.

Check it out here and decide for yourself.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Eagles -- Less than 6 Weeks to Football Season

The Eagles had a lot of issues to address this offseason, especially since they are playing in one of the toughest divisions, the NFC East. Last season, the Eagles were the only NFC East team not to go to the playoffs. I've post a great video from CBS Sportsline that goes through some of the off the field issues that the team must address this training camp. The one issue not brought up was Andy Reid. It remains to be seen whether Andy can focus since his family has become such an issue.

Here's to hoping that this season, the Birds can regain form and compete again in the NFC. It all starts with Westbrook, pay the man his money, he's worth it more than #5 ever was.

Katie Loves Walks

Katie loves to go for walks. Whenever we mention the word, she starts to jump off the floor...It's hilarious, the video evidence is below.


Mythbusters -- One of My Favorite Shows

One of my all time favorite shows is Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel. The show features Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, who recreate certain urban myths and attempt to explain or disprove them through engineering and scientific method. It's a great show...

I've listed a link below to a website that lists all the myths they've addressed, as well as an article on who they are and the show's link.

Link to YouTube Video -- Coke and Mentos

Link to Mythbusters Results

Link to Article on Jamie and Adam

Mortgage Mess -- Guess who will pay?

If not us, it will be our children...A great cartoon that says it all...More regional banks will fail.

My Commute Story for the Week -- Pregnant Women

What's wrong with this picture?

Last summer
, my co-worker was 7 months pregnant, and every morning, she would commute from Hoboken, NJ to Midtown, NYC. Being pregnant in the heat of the summer in the city, she would take the PATH to and from work, and it made me appreciate that if she can do the commute, I can do it. Everyday, we'd ask her how the commute was, and she would unequivocally state that it was horrible. While most decent, well-mannered people understand that a pregnant woman deserves consideration, help, or certain privileges, there are still some socially-retarded people who lack the maturity to recognize this simple, obvious fact. It's really not that hard, unless you're one of those people who only thinks about themselves.

Everyday, my co-worker would tell us the same horrible story about how people would not give up their seat near the door for her on the subway . In fact, this happened nearly everyday, and since I ride the subways everyday and see how people act, it didn't surprise me. She went on to state that, more often then not, it was the men who would just not notice initially, but once asked, would politely give up their seat, but the women would always look at her like my co-worker was asking for something worse than a panhandler. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical, until recently, and have come to realize that some people get it, and these folks will be self sufficient, understand manners, and truly be an adult. Unfortunately however, there are some who will walk this earth unaware of how ignorant they truly are. In fact, I'd take someone who admits they're ignorant; at least they know their limits and you know what you get. A worse situation is the ignorant person who doesn't realize or know they are, and actually believes all the crap that's happened to them, or their perceived "hard lot in life" is somehow not partially their own fault. We all know someone like this.

So my commuter story goes like this. Last week, while riding the 7 across town to Penn Station, a woman got on the subway who was very pregnant, and looked visibly tired. She looked around at the packed train, and then, upon realizing there were no seats, she politely asked the woman sitting next to the door if she could have her seat and sit down. Well the woman obviously thought she was the Queen of England, because she proceeded to exhale loudly, and give the pregnant woman a look like "are you kidding me, I own this seat." It was pretty shocking to all of us who witnessed this. Two people promptly offered their seats once they realized the situation and were absolutely stunned since the initial woman did not give up her seat. Even though I had heard my co-worker's perspective last summer, I still entertained the idea that maybe I was over-reacting. But since most on the train gave this insensitive "piece of garbage" (not my words, I heard them uttered by several people...) dirty looks all the way across town, and then let her know when getting off the subway that she was "brutal" and a "miserable person," I realized, maybe I wasn't over-reacting.

Karma is a beautiful thing. While truly unbelievable, it's really sad in the end that people can be so clueless and think the world is really all about them. If you see a pregnant woman, it's pretty simple; give her a hand and help her out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Over 5,000 Hits!

Thanks for checking out the site!! In total, we've gone over 5,000 hits. As the web connects us all, people from as far as China, Singapore, Europe and Australia have visited.

Thanks again..I'm flattered and never dreamed of that many hits.

Taxpayer Dollars, FRE and FNM, and the Mortgage Mess

I know it's never as simple as I sometimes allude to on this blog, but it looks like taxpayers will be on the hook for the mess. Freddie and Fannie equity holders should get wiped out. More moral hazard, and this time its not Wall Street but the politicians.

By the way, long term rates are still north of 6.5%, so all that liquidity hasn't really made it to the consumer. Houses may cost less from a price perspective, but cost more from the borrower's perspective. It's a wash, and it'll be great once the next president raises taxes, and institutes a protectionist policy.

But maybe I've got this completely wrong, and all of this intervention has to do with the fact that it's an election year, and after the election, the Fed will raise rates and the politicians won't care about buying your vote via a stimulus check you don't deserve, or by blaming the oil companies or talking about windfall taxes, or reigning in the short-sellers on Wall Street. What do I know? Maybe that inverted yield curve meant nothing...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Josh Hamilton

There is a really great story playing out in baseball. While it's not the Rich Ankiel or Jon Lester story, this is the story of Josh Hamilton. Josh was recently thrust upon the national scene because of his amazing 1st round in the home run derby during this past MLB All-Star game. Josh hit 28 home runs in the first round, and the home runs weren't just over the corners of Yankee Stadium. Josh's home runs were hit to some of the deepest parts of the stadium. In golf, ball flight is everything, and in the home run derby contest, it's no different. Josh's homers had a different look and feel, and here he was making history in the most famous of ball parks.

But the amazing part of Josh's story is the path he took to get to that precise moment on the national stage. God apparently blessed Josh with the ability to hit a baseball, but Josh struggled with an addiction to crack on his way to the big leagues. Rather than go on with all the cliches, his life is proof that you should never give up on your dreams. But if you don't believe me, just take Josh Hamilton's own word for it. You cannot help but be inspired by his words.

Link to Josh Hamilton's Article, dated July 5, 2007

Video of Josh's 28 Home Run Performance

In my humble opinion, we are all fallible, no one is perfect, and we all have experienced tough times in life. I believe that the folks with immense, god-given talent, are sometimes the people that God tests the hardest, so that they truly appreciate what gifts they have been given. Put simply, I believe God gives the toughest people the toughest tasks to deal with in life, because they are the people that can handle life's hardships with grace, dignity and class.

Congratulations Josh Hamilton...Easy to root for a guy that has paid his dues.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Amazing Video of Lion's Gratitude

Here's a cool video of a lion showing its gratitude towards the woman by hugging her. The woman apparently rescued the lion when it was young and malnourished, but brought it back to health. To anyone who says animals don't remember or have feelings, here is proof otherwise. Love truly is blind.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Kid Out Duels a Legend

Last night, Charlie got the start for the Braves against San Diego. The kid went and out dueled a past legend of the organization that Charlie plays for, Greg Maddux. Morton allowed 1 run, and scattered 4 hits over 5 1/3 innings. As a side note, I bought the MLB.TV Premium package to follow CM. It's a good deal, and you can watch any out of market game on your laptop or TV.

A funny moment in the game though. Morton walked Maddux and was annoyed by this walk. Greg Maddux then promptly stole second (which took about 10 seconds to play out.) My sister and I were texting each other, saying "WTF??!" and "PLUNK TUBS THE NEXT TIME UP". It was hilarious.

All kidding aside, it was a good win for Charlie. It's fun to watch nice people succeed in life. If you've ever met Charlie, or at least read his press, he's one of the nicest, most humble people you could hope to meet given the talent he's got. It's refreshing in this day and age, where too often, all you meet are people upset with their "lot in life." Good things come to those who work hard, and Charlie reminds me of that.

Remember the name...Charlie Morton.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Is There Another Bear Stearns Lurking Out There??

There’s lots of talk about another Bear Stearns lurking out there. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tumbled on a report by Lehman Brothers that stated Fannie and Freddie might need to raise additional capital. The headline regarding this research report was dripping with irony. Fannie and Freddie are sponsored by the US government...

Well, some quick numbers for those that think there might be another bank that is at risk. I took a look at some numbers of the banks out there that get lots of press regarding the possible bad loans they might be hiding on their balance sheets. Merrill (MER), Lehman Bros (LEH) get all the press given that the price of their credit default swaps imply increased risk of failure. But I took a look at Goldman Sachs (GS), Wachovia (WB) and Wells Fargo (WFC) in addition to Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C) and Washington Mutual (WAMU). It’s pretty interesting:

I’m not sure about UBS, because they file a 20-F, and sometimes the balance sheet data is funny, but everything else was sourced from Y! Finance and 10-K's as of the close of 1Q 2008. What’s interesting to note is that GS, MER and LEH all stand out with leverage ratios greater than their peers, and north of 25x times the book value of their equity. (For example, a crude, ironic analogy for LEH: If Lehman’s assets were the house’s value, then they bought a house for $786 billion with 3% of their own equity down, and took out a loan worth $761 billion…The bad news is that if the house value falls (asset value) then LEH has to bring a check to pay off the mortgage... For a review on leverage, etc. please see my previous posts here.)

Taking this simple analysis one step further, look at the average leverage multiple ex-GS, UBS, MER and LEH. It’s 27% lower, at 13.1x vs. 17.9x. So it begs the question; what is the magnitude of a potential writedown for LEH, etc. if LEH’s leverage multiple were in-line with its peers leverage multiple??

While this analysis is not an indictment against LEH, etc. the math represents a quick and rough "back of the envelope" calculation. If nothing else, Bear Stearns’ leverage was around 8.0x in their November 2007 10-K filing, where their total assets were $96 billion and the Book Value of Bear's shareholder equity of $12 billion, although it should be noted that estimates were around 32x before all hell broke loose. With all the government rhetoric around potentially extending federal backstopping of troubled banks at taxpayer and shareholder expense, it's worth looking beyond the headlines to see if there’s any merit to the fear. These simple calculations suggest there may be some merit and the potential to the US equity markets could be huge if another failure occurs. The bigger question is the moral hazard the government now creates setting the precedent of potentially bailing out another one these banks if they fail. Stay tuned.

Flightaware Website -- "Light Chop at 30K"

This is a really neat site that allows you to track airplane flights in real time. The site has a movie that shows all of the air traffic across the US yesterday at the link below. Pretty cool.

Link to FlightAware website

If you've ever been able to listen to air traffic controllers on the headsets they give you that hook into the arm of your chair, have a listen for a couple o minutes. It's really a fascinating process. In a nutshell, certain regional air traffic control towers direct and monitor your flight, until you enter the airspace of the airport you are landing at. All during your flight and prior to entering this space to begin your final descent to land, you basically hear the pilots constantly checking in saying "light chop at 30K" or "heavy chop at 35K"...Chop is short for turbulence, which is what every pilot tries to avoid. The air traffic controllers then try and take all this real time data and keep their airplanes at altitudes with light chop (laminar flow) along their vectors, steering them away from one another to maintain a safe distance. Finally, when you enter the landing airport's airspace, the regional airspace controllers hand your pilots off to "Philadelphia" for descent. Very coordinated, and you hear some funny things too.

So while obvious, in the context of flying, turbulence is a bad thing. But did you ever wonder what turbulence actually is, and why the plane ride gets very bumpy when you fly through it? Well, I used to design and install downstream filtration units that would filter and separate bioreactor products from waste byproducts, and turbulence is something I know a lot about. If you know what the graph below shows, you and I should talk:

Please see my upcoming future post about turbulence, and why it's important across so many contexts, like flight, filtration, golf, baseball, and more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Social Networking "Spy Site"

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the explosion of social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. These websites allow people to create personal pages about themselves, and stay connected to people since life moves at the speed of light.

The WSJ went on to report of several aggregator sites that allow you to search for long lost friends anonymously, and the implication was that HR sites might use them to look at potential hires to do background checks. Whatever the case, I checked the sites out, and the one that was most interesting was "Spokeo". The official website is here.

The site basically allows you to create an account for free by using one of your personal email servers like Yahoo. For instance, I created an account using my yahoo email account. Spokeo then imports my contacts, and uses their emails and/or names to search across the social networking spectrum (YouTube, Flikr, Facebook, etc.) for your contacts and their personal sites. The service also allows you to get updates when people add new things to their facebook page, for example. It's an interesting concept, especially if you've lost touch with folks. The one downside is that registering is free, but you have to pay to actually to access the results for some contacts.

All in all though, it was an interesting concept, and the fee is low enough to justify taking a peek into your friend's world. I didn't plunk down the money for expanded service, but it was a pretty cool service concept. The paranoid would be well served to know HR could find you, the secure person would see the technology as interesting, novel, with nothing to hide. But you probably should already be linked up with any friends that might be out there on the web, IMHO. Better to know and make your own decision, as I mean to make no judgments here.

Anyone Know if This Works?

I saw an infomercial for something called the "Sham-wow" towel the other night. The commercial is interesting, and but am sure that since it looks too good to be true, it's probably not a legitimate product. The thing can hold a ton of water... but several links out there say it's a scam.

So it got me thinking about another product I was curious about called the "Peticure". This device is a Dremel mechanically, but allows you to trim your pets nails without hitting the "quick". Katie has dark nails, so we can't even see the quick to avoid it, but the Peticure is interesting, and would love to hear if anyone has used it.

Official Peticure Website here.
Review on Peticure here.

July 4th -- Ava!!

Mommie to be with sister-mommie
Erin and I spent the 4th with Becky, Rog, Mom, and Laurie and Pete, and of course, Ava. She's almost 2 months old, but much bigger than when we saw her the day she was born. She's absolutely precious...!

So it should be known that I am now known as "Uncle Jon, Baby Holding Hog", but how could you not want to hold her? It reminded me of holding Laurie and Cindy when they were little, who doesn't like holding babies? Burping is a bit of a struggle, but Ava's gained a lot of weight and looks so cute!

"I love my auntie Erin..." Look at that smile.

It was nice to see Erin and Becky bond over all the things we should expect this coming December. It's exciting to think about, and overwhelming at times, but it helps to have great support from Becky and Rog and everyone down in DE, we're so thankful.

Here's to you Ava! Happy 4th of July from Uncle Jon and Auntie Erin!

The Baby Holding Hog, in action
I sleeping! Leave me alone!


What is it?

(Click to Enlarge)
If you know what this is, you are probably a me.

(Zoomed out)

The answer is a platter from a computer hard disk drive. I took these out of an old PC my mom wanted to throw out and proceeded to slam a hammer to them to corrupt the data. Also ran a magnet over them as well, you know, to protect the private info.

It's pretty amazing though, if you think about how this technology works.

For a link on how hard disk drives work, go here...

And don't even get me started on laser printers...toner gets fused after a reverse image is statically charged to the paper and roller? Insane.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bill Gross's Open Letter to Potential President BO -- Please read

Bill Gross is the Chief Investment Officer at Pacific Investment Management Company, or PIMCO. His commentary is razor sharp, and if nothing else, he provides his readers with a satirical, but purposeful thoughts about the economy. As of late, and given the markets' turmoil, many (including this blogger) have come forward to try and explain some of the dynamics, etc. Bill Gross has been talking about the impending housing/credit bubble for years, and last year, his firm's restraint into structured finance products proved out. Bear in mind, it's Mr. Gross's job to understand the capital markets intimately, and since the economy is the biggest thing on voters minds, you should read his op-ed piece to Obama, the presumed president elect. It's that good, and spot on, and cuts away all the bullshit that politicians say to get elected.

We're in a lot of trouble folks, and there will be no easy, short term fixes. The only fix to change anything will be as always, when things hit rock bottom. Only then will the policital will allow leaders to make tough choices that aren't predicated upon their desire to stay in power. The beer was good, but the hangover will be worse.

Bill Gross's Open Letter to "President Obama"