Shorties Highway

A few things about the Economy: Standard of Living; broke; working for nothing.

Wonder Wonder, Wonder Woman!: The History of the Universe as told by Wonder Woman.

Is it time to stop?: I don’t know.

Um, Yeah: Stock photos.

A sign of the Catpocalypse: Hello Kitty Hell tells you to buy Hello Kitty stuff by the 31st to support earthquake and tsunami relief.

A few things about Politics: Dems, Ur Doin It Wrong; Budget; Tax the Super Rich or Face a Revolution; Tom Hartmann.

Springtime in Vegas: Mojave Max says so.

Adapting: Sake.

And now for something cute: Smokey the Purring Cat. I bet that will wake you in the middle of the night!

Tokyo does not have 3 syllables

This morning, after listening to a newsman mangle the pronunciation of the current Prime Minister of Japan’s name, I thought it might be polite to give readers a brief guide to how to pronounce all those words you might see in print regarding the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant issues.

Thankfully, you don’t need to read any of the three sets of characters used to read and write Japanese; it’s come to you already in “roman” characters called “romanji” or “roomaji” in Japanese. Better yet, every letter always makes the same sound, which is more than you can say for English! So here’s how the vowels work:

  • “a” always makes an “ah” sound, as in “father” or “want”
  • “e” always makes an “eh” sound, as in “lend” or “get”
  • “i” always makes an “eee” sound — just like it does in Italian or Latin. Think “Italiano”. Sometimes, if it would cause emphasis to be given to a syllable, it is almost silent as in “Hiroshima”.
  • “o” always makes an “oh” sound, like in “slow” or “tempo”
  • “u” always makes an “oo” sound, like in “tune” or “rule”. Like “i”, sometimes it is almost silent as in “sukiyaki” or “desu” (which means “is”)
  • Vowels can be doubled up, which results in it being held longer. The most obvious example of this is “Tokyo,” which would be spelled out in Hiragana as something more like “Toukyou”.

And there are a few consonants that seem to give people trouble:

  • “g” is always hard, as in “get” or “give” or “gen mai cha”
  • “j” always makes a j sound, like in “jet” or “jive”
  • “tsu” is said just like it’s written; the t is not silent
  • sometimes an “n” at the end of a syllable has a sound somewhere between an n and an m (in Japanese, it gets its own character when this happens)
  • “y” is a consonant, and in words like Tokyo and Kyoto, it is part of one syllable (written with two characters — it gets complicated)

Sorry if this seems a little pedantic. Now you’ll be able to read all those place names in the news and the items on your local sushi/teppanyaki place like a champ.

Now for a special what the??? edition of In Closing: Etsy child abuse; save the Northwest Tree Octopus (you’ve never seen one because they’re endangered!); secret cat haven; an unlikely charitable organization; duh; war on undesirables drugs; historically hardcore; capture the what??; actually it was a little longer than one decade; complaints; can you pass?; the Gentleman from Ohio; time for some realistic time management (including the use of the word NO); remember; vorpal bunnies in Spain; stupid; not really; worried; poor babies; fear; time poverty; the cat and the crickets; yes, this is real; Mrs. God; and find the unnecessary word in this comic:
PC and Pixel

The End of the BAMTOR Principle?

Alas, I can only hope. However, I do know better.

Somebody’s actually going to jail for fraud at a mortgage company that caused another bank to collapse. I’m quite pleased that finally, somebody is actually being punished for a crime. But frankly, we need a lot more bankers being escorted off premises in handcuffs. The only way to break the BAMTOR Principle is to make it so Joe Banker tells his boss: “I can’t do that! It’s against the law! Don’t you remember that they arrested Bob for that?”

Elsewhere, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are whining that they may actually have to pay “material fines” for breaking the law in foreclosures. Poor babies. B of A may also have to pay investors a few hundred million dollars for delaying foreclosures because it turns out that some pesky activist judges wanted them to follow the law! It seems like the only way to make a bank pay up is when it’s paying another financial institution. Gee FDIC, I hope you’ve got a plan for what to do when one of these big boys finally collapses.

Finally, some pesky activist judges are finally saying to big institutions “Just because it’s standard practice doesn’t make it legal.”

In Closing: Americans without passports; a recap; another reason to quit smoking; Bring It; no TSA required; stagflation; the center is way off here, no, a little more to the left; worth reading; budget cutting their own throats; stop manipulating me!; that sounds easy; free in Tokyo (did you know Tokyo is 4 syllables long?); and you know I don’t generally do celebrity news, but this sounds like the setup for a re-make of Weekend at Bernie’s. What could possibly go wrong??

Make Me Mad

This morning I read a little item called “It’s time to stop blaming the lenders.” The essence can be told in less than one paragraph:

It’s okay that people made the mistake of borrowing more than they could afford. But is it really the lenders’ fault? Really? Maybe the banks didn’t deserve to be bailed out for their own poor judgment, but do the rest of us really deserve to bailed out for our own?

So let me make sure I’ve got this right. It’s our fault?

It’s Harry Homeowner’s fault that when he went to talk to Mary Mortgage-Broker, he actually believed her when she told him he could afford up to a $300,000 mortgage? It’s his fault that she lied to him, or pressured him into a pick-a-payment or adjustable rate mortgage he didn’t completely understand?

It’s Nicolle Bradbury‘s fault that she lost her job and — like so many other people — hasn’t been able to find another job that would allow her to continue making a modest $474 monthly payment?

It’s Joe Average’s fault that “everybody ought to own a house” propaganda combined with shoddy underwriting to create a housing bubble, even when the people who should have known it was a bubble said everything was fine?

It’s my fault that mortgage company executives were making insider trades?

It’s Darrell‘s fault that the mortgage company lost his paperwork not once, but five times?

It’s your fault that banks sold one another worthless securities based on your neighbors’ mortgages, and now sometimes can’t even figure out who owns what?

It’s our fault that banks hired scores of people with dubious qualifications to sign legal documents equivalent to swearing in a court of law, attesting that they knew things they couldn’t possibly know about our mortgages?

Is it also Nancy Jacobini‘s fault that her home didn’t look “lived in” enough for the goons hired by her mortgage company to change the locks? Is it her fault that he couldn’t be bothered to look in a window or knock on the door?

It’s Patrick Jeffs‘s fault that a mortgage company tried to take his home when he didn’t even have a mortgage with them?

This is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at victim blaming. It’s right up there with “she wore a short skirt so she deserved to be raped” and “he was walking at night; he should have known better.” The author should be ashamed of himself, but he honestly believes that it’s as simple as “no pay, no stay.”

In Closing: they want to build a steam powered computer; obesity is a threat to national security; venture capitalists are spending less money on new companies, which bodes ill for future job creation; average teen sends 3,339 text messages per month; girls can so do math; bad boys, bad boys, whacha gonna do?; health insurance reform isn’t over yet; overworked; and let me make sure I understand, the kids throw a wild party that got out of hand, and so you arrest the parents, leaving the kids to throw another party? Egads.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Oooh! A kitten *and* a ducky!

Heh, I promise, the Latte Economy later today or at worst tomorrow morning.

In Closing: Tony Horton says Soldiers need yoga; mystery trader buys all Europe’s cocoa(!); 10 ways to conserve water; Wall Street Journal whores itself to lets Sharron Angle lie; a follow up, is Dipak Desai competent to stand trial?; Virgin Galactic one step closer to passengers, takes a flight with a crew!; Wacky Arizona (thanks to Brian); FDL notices that banks only follow laws they want to follow; “Link to this“; ghost in the machine at Facebook; geta; and a few words on Social Security.

Short But Sweet

No, that’s not a description of myself. Eat your heart out!

I hate most audio and video posts on the web.

Ok, no, I liked the cute video of the baby playing with the collie. And I don’t mind when political sites like Crooks and Liars link to interviews and even political ads that are of interest. Sometimes there’s nuance you don’t get in the transcript — which by the way is often included (it’s my favorite part of their posts). I like funny songs and game reviews, and I like some of the serial dramas out there too. There are even some very useful “how-to” videos for a lot of activities.

But seriously, at least half of the audio and video on the web is stuff that wastes my time. It’s stuff that takes 5 or 10 minutes to watch, that if you were to just put it in print, I could tell what I need to know in less than 90 seconds. I am sick and tired of feeling like I’ve been hoodwinked into sitting through somebody’s “important” presentation just to find out that they want $37 to tell me the real secret to success, or to tell me something I already knew, or even to give me one almost important thing in a sea of meaningless or redundant blah blah.

Now several people lately have been telling me that video posts are the freaking future. They claim that I can crank out a video post in half the time it takes me to type, grammar check, spell check, edit, and make sure I actually make sense in writing. I think that’s just got to be a lie! Even in a video post, if you want to get that “actually make sense” thing going on, you’ll need some sort of script or outline. And even if that’s 4 lines scribbled on a sticky note stuck to your notebook computer next to the camera, it takes time. Do you honestly think this happened with no rehearsal and no script?

For that matter, there’s a “looking presentable” thing. It’s going to take time to make sure you look decent, and that there’s nothing behind you that you don’t mind being seen across the interwebs. Am I in my pajamas? For the record, no, but you’ve got no way of knowing! Some video bloggers get around this actually having to get out of their pajamas by creating little PowerPoint-like slides that reinforce their point. Again, you’re losing the time savings and boosting the tech requirements to get rolling. And really, does anybody like PowerPoint?

Finally, putting stuff in writing makes it easier to quote you. It’s just “copy” and “paste”. Nobody has to listen 4 times to make sure the wording is right, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to find the quote in text rather than by trying to remember whether that good bit was at minute 16 or minute 27.

Look, if you can’t at least tell me what you’re going to say in a few sentences (I’m not even asking for a transcript), you’ve got nothing to say to me. It’s called a summary. You learned about them in second grade. If you insist on audio and video posts — and that includes podcasts! — you’d better have one or I’m closing the tab.

In Closing: Keeping you up to date on Sharron Angle (sorry, I’m from Las Vegas now); I’m with Digby on strategic default among the wealthy; on consumer credit and American exports; on immigrants and the work they do (truth is that some employers prefer easily exploited workers who are worried more about deportation than OSHA regs or minimum wage laws); does this look like something you would want to eat??; how to make real coin; and Marines fight bad guys but save cuddly animals.

Economy Jigsaw Puzzle

Normally, you start a jigsaw puzzle with the edge pieces. However, that’s really hard on this one because the fallout of the dysfunctional banking system that resulted in many of our economic issues is in the process of bringing down a foreign nation: Greece.

Mr. Buffett is really good at these puzzles, so let’s let him have a go first. Oh look, he’s put together a housing recovery in 2011 (I think that’s assuming we actually get through all the foreclosures) and a slow recovery. He thinks that something has got to be done to punish the financial whiz kids who got us into this mess, and that our current system of paying for health care is a colossal drain on our economy. This is one of the two richest guys in the world and as nearly as I can tell he didn’t need to defraud anybody to get there, so just maybe we ought to listen to him.

Of course there are other parts of the puzzle that bring into question whether there is really a recovery, even a slow one. We’ve got millions of people who are unemployed, millions more who are “underemployed”, stagnant wages, and just enough inflation to mean the savings rate is going down. Those low interest rates — which were supposed to make businesses borrow money from banks who won’t lend it and renters buy houses they can’t afford (but that are actually tempting people with higher mortgage rates and underwater homes to walk away and buy something nicer and cheaper at a lower rate) — mean that there’s not much point in saving money. That hooks in with lousy consumer sentiment, the continuing (and at least partly bank-caused) bubble and subsequent crash of housing prices, and a trillion with a T dollars in lost economic growth. That’s a million million dollars. $1,000,000,000,000.

See? These puzzles are a lot easier when people work together!

Over by the bankers, brokers, and other financial whiz kids there’s these rumors of “reform” and “consumer financial protections.” Careful, though. If you don’t put that together just right, it’s worse than nothing.

Oh yeah, and in this corner over by underemployment, we unfortunately have government budget deficits. It doesn’t take a financial whiz kid to know that when income is stagnant, unemployment is up, underemployment is high, and not enough jobs are being created, that means tax revenues aren’t what they should be either. That in turn means bigger deficits, even without any sort of spending on economic stimulus. Senator McCain wants to cut that deficit just exactly the way Reagan did, which I suppose means he proposes higher deficits.

The nice people at Forbes think all those government workers need a pay cut. Now riddle me this, Batman: while I understand their sentiment, exactly how is cutting the pay of the guy who delivers my mail or the lady who processes my passport application going to help? That’s just going to exacerbate the “stagnant wages” problem. I feel certain that they can’t really mean cutting pay for high wage workers like our Congressmen and key people in the Executive branch; such a proposal would never make it out of committee. Besides, until campaigns become solely publicly funded, I think you can argue that all those people are underpaid. After all, every one of them spent more to get elected than they will ever make at the job itself!

Of course, state governments don’t have the option of deficit spending. That’s why Nevada is moving most employees to a 4 day workweek. The only way this works, of course, is to make all those offices like the DMV open only 4 days a week. Right, because nobody needs to get a drivers license or car registration on a Saturday, right? That way they aren’t spending money to light, heat, air condition, and clean those buildings all weekend. And I suppose it’s probably good for the environment that all those state workers will be sitting at home instead of getting on the freeway. Maybe they will spend some money on their extended weekends — assuming they aren’t deathly afraid of job cuts.

There’s still pieces missing. I’ll check the box and under the sofa. In the meantime, it’s a pretty ugly picture.

In Closing: How much scientific research is thwarted by harassment that borders on textbook definition terrorism?; the Chile quake actually tilted the Earth on its axis, such that the day is 1.26 milliseconds longer (funny how Pat Robertson isn’t dredging up some made up reason why Chile has a pact! with! Satan! that explains why they had an even bigger quake than Haiti); no **** ***** cuss free week at this **** **** blog!; man accused of selling outdated videogame systems to help a terrorist group; origin of the peace symbol; ok, ok, something on health insurance reform; happy daddies; and your overdue dose of Japanfilter, Cat Costumes. Oddly enough the cat doesn’t look unhappy, and the human has no obvious wounds.

Shorties of Riddick

Let’s start off with the Health Insurance Reform bits: Many thanks to Florinda for noticing this item, the story of the mom who was the only person in the whole Emergency Department with health insurance. However, don’t think that mandatory health insurance would have changed that. And here’s a moving piece on health care — particularly mental health care, as it fits into our nation’s Christian traditions.

Continuing the Bush Economic Tradition: Huzzah, they are now proudly telling us that GDP went up 5.9% in Q4 of 2009. Isn’t that great? The Great Recession is officially over! Of course, that’s only if you ignore the reality of fewer jobs, higher unemployment particularly among people under 25 (many of whom don’t show up in the official statistics), collapsing consumer confidence, and stuff like that. In fact, the Christian Science Monitor has gone as far as to say that the recovery is a scam. Oh well, some jobs cost more to create than others. Real worry that the Senate decided it was more important to go home than to make sure that people on unemployment would be able to pay the rent next month.

Going to the Vitamin Store?: Not sure what to make of this chart of what science really knows about the various supplements you could buy there.

Huh, Maybe Blackwater is Out Of Control: Duh, Senate.

From the Department of WTF: The military thought it important to take time away from 2 overseas wars to spy on… Planned Parenthood? And white supremacists? Why, recruiting?

New USDA Rules on Organic Food: summary here.

“You never know who it used to be”: A local Buddhist temple is in trouble with the city. Why? Too many cats hang out there and the temple is kind enough to see to it they have food and clean water.

Sad but true: The bullet is still mightier than the restraining order. My heart goes out to everybody involved, including the students of the slain teacher. There is still a lot we don’t know about this situation yet. But ladies, one thing I do know is that you don’t owe anybody a “mercy date” or an explanation about why you want nothing to do with them. Stay away from guys that scare you! Stop answering the phone, stop talking to them, stop seeing them, cut them off cold turkey! Telling them more than once that you don’t want to talk to them is still talking to them!