Archive for January, 2009

Homes of Genius

January 9, 2009

Dr. Housing Bubble

The anonymous author of has been warning about the collapse of the real estate bubble since 2006. He highlights the absurdity of the mania with his Real Homes of Genius examples of Southern California home price histories. He started by documenting the absurd price increases for tiny, unattractive properties, but now he chronicles their dizzying fall.

He backs up his anecdotal case histories with some very sobering macro-economic analysis. He has been consistently warning that the real estate crisis is just beginning, as billions of dollars of adjustable rate mortgages issued at the top of the boom reset to market rates. The worst is yet to come.


Good Eats

January 8, 2009

Good Eats Fan Page

Alton Brown’s Good Eats show is on the Food Network cable channel about twice a night. It’s funny, scientific and very practical. Alton has a large following of devoted fans, but none as dedicated as “MikeMenn,” the author of the Good Eats Fan Page website. He provides illustrated transcripts of every episode, from The Pouch Principle (poaching in parchment paper) to Tender is the Loin (Steak au Poivre). The transcripts are a lot more useful and detailed than the recipes on the Food Network channel.

what the …???

January 7, 2009

the daily wtf

How to convince your children to avoid a career in computer science–spend a few minutes on this site. Long-suffering programmers submit their tales of woe about pointy-headed bosses, incomprehensible code (usually so obscure that only true nerds get the joke)  and classic bugs (this story from 1984 was actually the same leap-year bug that shut down all the Zune mp3 players this month).

The Maverick

January 6, 2009

Blog Maverick

Mark Cuban knows that he talks too much. He’s frequently fined by the NBA for conduct unbecoming a team owner and the SEC has sued him for insider trading. Nevertheless the dot-com billionaire tells it all unblushingly in his blog. Today he explains why his bid to buy the Chicago Cubs will probably fail.  As usual he is going to antagonize some influential people, but it makes for fascinating reading. Not many blogs cover professional sports, Wall Street, politics, computer technology and Hollywood–all from the first-person perspective of someone who can afford not to give a damn what you think of him.


January 5, 2009

Astronomy Picture of the Day

I know of no better way to start the day than by visiting this site. One spectacular image each day that gives me a perspective on the entire universe.  From the famous and awe-inspiring to the newest mind-boggling views of our planet, solar system, galaxy and universe, there is beauty to behold.

The Plague Years

January 4, 2009

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

There’s some good news (if a little belated).  Samuel Pepys reports:

Then comes my wife, and I set her to get supper ready against I go to the Duke of Albemarle and back again; and at the Duke’s with great joy I received the good news of the decrease of the plague this week to 70…

Pepys diary for January 3rd 1665/6  (We’d call it 1666, but they didn’t start their new year until March for legal purposes) rejoices in the lowest death rate in twenty years, but notes it may be because of  “the want of people in London.” His daily concerns are eerily contemporary–greed, corruption, war, cronyism and lust. Sometimes his remarks are a little obscure, but they are elucidated by notes and reader annotations.

Neverending story?

January 3, 2009


Thank you, Al Franken and Norm Coleman. The election of 2008 continues into the new year and so does the best of the election campaign analysis blogs– Nate Silver comes from the world of baseball statistics which gives him a fresh approach to handicapping elections. Today he has Al Franken up by the enormous margin of 252 votes, and predicts that things will continue to get bleaker for Coleman if more absentee ballots are included.


January 2, 2009

Schneier on Security

Bruce Schneir’s blog today links to a fascinating but frustrating history of NSA and CIA signals and communications cryptography American Cryptology during the Cold War. Fascinating, because it is a frank internal history by NSA historian Thomas R. Johnson who obviously knows a great deal about what was happening, but frustrating because large sections of the pdf files are whited out.

Schneir on security is the best source of information about security and privacy available anywhere today. His greatest contribution may be his utterly devastating analysis of  “security theater” which subordinates effective action to the appearance of action.


January 1, 2009

Language Log

Even punctuation is controversial on the Internet.  Should my title be Bert Collins’ Blog or Bert Collins Blog? I go to  Language Log for my daily dose of grammar wars.  Mark Liberman’s site is very reassuring–the repeated message is that the proper study of linguistics is how people use language, not how they OUGHT to use it. If you want to know how many words the Inuit really have for snow, you’ll find the full, hilarious debate here.

(When my computer recently crashed,  I used the opportunity to do a clean install. I am gradually restoring my Firefox bookmarks and will share some of my favorites here.)