Monday, September 29, 2008

LHC self-destruct

The LHC's coolant may explode. Basically, if you expose a Bose-Einstein Condensate to a very powerful, rapidly changing magnetic field, the attractive forces holding it together flip to repulsive forces instead. Not usually a problem, the amounts of BEC normally involved are tiny. But superfluid liquid helium is a BEC. And the LHC uses 700,000 liters of the stuff. Now, the statement that no other facility handling large quantities of liquid helium has exploded sounds good, until you realize that no other facility is using the liquid helium to cool extremely strong electromagnets.

One up-side: if the theory turns out to be right and the BEC does explode, it won't require any special equipment to verify it.

Wall Street bleeding

A majority of Republicans rejected the bail-out plan proposed by Bush, despite pleas from the Republican leadership. Most of the rejection came from the fiscal-conservative camp, the people Bush has been snubbing in favor of the religious-conservative wing of the party. Despite support from the Democrats, the plan didn't get enough votes to pass. So no bail-out.

The Dow's down 777 points at close, nearly 7%. The NASDAQ and S&P500 are in even worse shape, being down around 9% each. And frankly I don't expect the indexes to recover. They may be up a bit tomorrow, but they won't rise as far as they fell and they're going to keep slipping over the next month or two. If you're looking for improvements in the financial markets, that won't be happening until next year at the earliest.

Friday, September 26, 2008

WAMU taken over

WAMU has been taken over the by Feds in an after-market-close action, and is slated to be sold to JP Morgan Chase. Several friends and people I know bank there, and it's causing a fair amount of upset for them. Even if WAMU's open for business and money can go in and out of the accounts, they're looking at moving to other banks because they just don't trust WAMU anymore. I don't blame them. I was expecting WAMU to go under, but I'd figured it'd take another month or so to finally happen. This doesn't bode well for other troubled financial institutions, either. The Feds may just have decided that a low-key approach isn't working so time to start with preemptive strikes to cut off problems before they have a chance to blow up.

I'm also seriously thinking about opening an account with another credit union and Wells Fargo. I currently bank with a credit union, but the largest CU in the area's been gobbling up smaller ones at an alarming rate and I don't want to get sucked into that. WF looks like the stablest of the major retail banks, and if I'm spread across 2 credit unions I'm fairly sure they won't both get acquired so quickly that I can't shift things around.

I'm glad I finished moving my 401K into the money-market and Treasury-bond funds, save for a few hundred dollars spread around so I can keep seeing the historical-performance graphs for the stock funds. I figure today's market increases will get wiped out and then some tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pocket knife

I was just looking at my pocket knife after washing it to clean it out. I realized this thing is old. I got it when I was in Boy Scouts, back in 1979 or so. The Swiss Army logo got worn off 15 years ago. But the knife still works perfectly, and I expect it to be working perfectly long after I'm dead.

How many things these days are made with the expectation that they'll be in use and in good condition 80 years after they're bought?


It's interesting to use ETrade's research features to look at my 401K holdings. And frankly looking at it the rule about leaving money sit seems to be wrong. Take the Lord Abbet Small Cap Value I fund, symbol LRSYX. If you look at the chart, there's a really blatant pattern there. For quite a few years the fund consistently rises through the year, then in late November or early December it takes a nose-dive and stays down until after the New Year when it starts rising again. If you hold it the full year, the nose-dive wipes out all your gains for the year. You're better off selling out of it in mid-November and then buying back in at the beginning of January.

MMO developers

Too many MMO developers don't actually play the games they develop. If I were running an MMO company, one mandate would come down: one day a week every developer's assigned job is to play the game. Not with other developers. Not on a dev or GM account. Not exclusively with close friends or a high-end raiding guild. Play as an ordinary player with people who aren't tightly involved with the game, without the high-powered gear that comes from years of top-tier raiding that most players won't ever see.

I figure if any dev doesn't actively enjoy playing the game, I need to think long and hard about whether I really want him responsible for creating the game.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stock markets

Well, today as expected the Dow and other indexes gave up most or all of Friday's gains. Expected because the gains Friday were mostly caused by short-sellers forced to buy to cover short positions no longer allowed by SEC regulations. Most of the stock-market bubble of the last couple years has been fueled by speculation and leverage, and the slide's feeding on itself as much as the run-up did. When you bet what you don't have, you get burned badly if anything goes wrong.

I expect a similar pattern when the bail-out plan's announced. We'll see an uptick for a day, maybe two, on optimism. Then we'll see a fall as investors realize the government isn't going to give too much protection to investors and the banks that made the loans. And I expect to see more bank failures as they get hit with bad-debt losses.


We did a Chelsith run last night. They've really nerfed that zone. 83^^^ and they fold like white-con solo mobs. We only had two problems. The first was a spot where mobs spawn overhead periodically. You have to time it to clear the mobs on the path and then retreat out of range of the overheads, then pull and kill one of the mobs guarding the path exit and retreat again before killing the final one. If you don't time your retreats, you get swarmed with half-a-dozen adds and die. The second was the final mob. We just need to get positioning right and keep him stunned and interrupted so he can't call his adds in and he'll go down. We want to kill him, because he drops class pieces several of us need.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Home ownership

Here's my take on home ownership in the future. If you don't own your house or have a fixed-rate or otherwise affordable mortgage right now? Forget it. The only way you're getting a mortgage in the future is if you've got an utterly unblemished, perfect credit report, can afford a 20% cash down payment and have an income high enough that the payments won't be more than about 33% of your gross income. Anything short of that and nobody'll be willing to lend you money at rates you can afford to take.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

San Diego housing market

Quick summary: the median home price in San Diego county's down to $350K. That's down 26% from a year ago, the lowest it's been in 5-1/2 years. But there's another number that should scare anyone invested in real estate: 43% of August's sales were of foreclosed properties. That's never a good sign. And it's going to get worse. By next year I expect the median price to be down under $300K, heading for $250K. That's going to make it almost impossible for people who bought at the $400K peak to sell their houses without taking a fatal loss. And many of them won't be able to afford to keep up the payments.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Veksar - Squallic Destroyer

Went into Veksar for the first time last night. The first named is a nasty one. We think the trick's to fight him up on the dry platform, don't let him get into the water. He's an electrical-based mob, and we all know what happens when you drop a live wire into water. But we still can't keep him from killing us towards the end. Time for research and log analysis.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Chasing a can-hauler

"They thought it wouldn't be a problem. They had the fastest ships the military had, made to run down the fastest military ships the other side had. Their target was a can-hauler, big and slow. It shouldn't be a contest.

Well, they forgot one thing. Their target had a maximum rated mass of 37.5 million tons. 30 million tons of that was cargo capacity, not actual mass. And it's engines were rated to shove it around while fully loaded. Sure, it's slow carrying a full 25-30 million tons of extra mass around. But blow the bays, dump all that mass, strip the ship down to a bare frame and suddenly instead of 37.5 million tons it's only about 7.5 million tons. Now you've got 100% of it's maximum power and only 20% of the mass to move. Performance suddenly is... significantly better.

Nobody really knows how fast a can-hauler can top out at. None of the factory test pilots ever had the guts to keep the throttles wide-open until she stopped accelerating, and once one's delivered no owner's ever going to run one empty if they can help it. But being chased by a fleet hell-bent on blowing you to plasma definitely qualifies as "can't help it".

As it turns out, the fleet was right: it wasn't a contest. They were just wrong about who was going to lose.

Movie quotes that should be

"They intended to make her into the perfect assassin.
They succeeded. Almost too well.
They didn't intend to make her insane in the process,
but they succeeded at that all too well too.
In retrospect, this was probably a bad idea."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

McCain says "No more questions!" about Palin

McCain cries "No more questions!" about Palin. This, IMO, is an admission that he screwed up badly picking her and simply doesn't have any answers to these questions. And I've no sympathy for him or her. Welcome to the kitchen your party created, Johnny, if you can't take the heat you should've thought of that before your party turned it up.

And no, I don't expect all this to undermine support for her and McCain among the Republican faithful. They've nobody else to vote for, after all. But it's going to raise questions in the minds of the center, and they're the ones who're going to determine the outcome of the election. And they're already nervous about the attitudes of the Republican faithful.