April 29, 2010

Heading Home

I am at the Oslo Airport waiting for the first leg of my flight home. OSL->FRA then at about 11:00 AM local time FRA->IAH

Bad news for us in Houston. It looks like United Airlines and Continental will be merging. Bad for Houston, bad for CO passengers.

I wonder if any good will come from this.

April 25, 2010

The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee

The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee - Balzac


We all face risk everyday. Some of these risks are taken on willingly (walking across the street, driving to the office). Some of these risks are imputed into our daily lives (eating meat that has been treated with antibiotics, eating vegetables that may be contaminated with e-coli). Some of these risks are reflected in the price of goods we pay for (gasoline, electricity, the metals that make up our cars). Some risks are forced on us by others (air pollution, designs that are faulty but the faults are purposefully hidden). And some risks are natural (Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning strikes.

But we do not live in a risk-free world. And if we think we can, we are fooling ourselves. If we think that our government can protect us from those risks, we are wrong there, too. As I see it, everyday we are trading of risk vs reward. Drive to work or take the bus? Eat the butter or eat the toast dry? Go to work in a coal mine or in a software company? While not many choices are as stark as that last one, it is still the type of choice that we all make as we grow up.

I work for a software company. But in the past I have worked manufacturing printed circuit boards for seismic equipment, surveying land positions, in a surface coal mine in Wyoming, a surface iron mine in Peru, an underground coal mine in Illinois, as well as in a cemetery. I fly frequently overseas as well as in across the US. I drive 15 miles one way to work, in a city not known for her considerate or conservative drivers.

When we buy gasoline, we pay for the risks associated with finding and producing that oil. Sometimes, those risks take people's lives. Like the 11 people who have apparently died in the Transocean rig explosion in the Gulf on Mexico this week.

When we buy electricity, we pay for the risks associated with the mining of the coal and the entire chain of electricity production from mine mouth to the last mile to your house. Sometimes, those risks take people's lives. Like the 29 miners who recently died in the Massey coal mine.

There is no way to have risk free energy, manufacturing, transportation, or even software development.

What I can say is that we all look at risks in a very personal way. I have worked on rigs, and know how dangerous is is to be around rotating equipment and explosive hydrocarbons. I have worked underground, and know that everyday when you head down in the man skip you know that there is a chance you won't come up. But you don't dwell on it. You accept it.

We all make choices. Those choices include taking risks that may take our lives, or perhaps more disturbingly, other people's lives.

Life is precious. Enjoy every sandwich.

April 24, 2010

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Doreen was kind enough to get us tickets to Miller Theatre to hear Ray Wylie Hubbard and Kelly Willis. I really enjoyed both shows. Of course, we all know Ray (He wrote Redneck Mothers). Kelly Willis is well known here in Texas, probably less so outside of the state.

Kelly Willis has a great voice, and doesn't have that breathy voice that so many young women singers seem to trade on. She had a four piece band with her (lead and base guitars, drums, keyboards) I think her latest big hit (if you would have her of her at all) was Teddy Boys.

Ray Wulie Hubbard is one strange dude. It was just Ray and a percussion guy (Rick Richards.) Ray is a much better guitar player than I thought he would be. Her wore what looked like a phrygian cap. I am not sure why - I guess he is going bald.

He did play Redneck Mothers. While not the highlight of the evening, it was entertaining.

Well worth the chore of leaving the house.

April 16, 2010

Taking a Look at the Top 400 Taxpayers

From Matthew Yglesias:

Taking a Look at the Top 400 Taxpayers: "

A couple of charts from the IRS on the state of America’s 400 richest households. Here’s the average income and average tax of the luckiest of duckies:


And here’s how the average tax rate has evolved:


As is well-known, the Top 400 are considerably more talented than the rest of us. And this decline in their tax rates has created exciting new incentives for them to apply their talents. And that, in turn, is why the 2000s were a so much more economically successful decade than the 1990s, not just for the Top 400 but for the rest of us as well. Thanks to their skyrocketing incomes and falling tax rates, we’re currently all enjoying the fruits of prosperity, rapid growth, and low unemployment. Thanks rich guys!


Matthew Yglesias » Taking a Look at the Top 400 Taxpayers

More on taxes:

Matthew Yglesias » Taking a Look at the Top 400 Taxpayers

April 15, 2010

PDF file about tax burden

Nobody likes to pay taxes, and everyone believes that they pay too much.

This document:

taxday2009.pdf (application/pdf Object)

shows that in the US the tax burden in fairly well distributed by income.

Don't have time to click through?

Here is the money chart:

Happy Tax Day!

April 14, 2010

Edward Albee

Doreen was invited to a University of Houston even last night to celebrate the fact that Edward Albee is back at the U of H teaching again. He taught here for about 20 years, but had to take some time off for a “personal matter” and is back again after five years.

He is a little fellow, probably about 5’4” tall, and 83 years old. He had a hard time remembering names (who doesn’t?) but seemed otherwise to be as sharp as he probably ever was.

He talked about a wide range of topics. Why he came to Houston (he likes our arts community) how he negotiated the deal with the U of H (basically he asked for twice the money they offer and working half the time they requested) and a lot about intellectual property (“there are forces of evil out there trying to take advantage of artists!”)

I was a little surprised at how much he talked about money. He seemed to be obsessed with it. But then again, he was an orphan, adopted by rich people he didn’t really seem to like. He ran away from home as a teenager and became a playwright.

I engaged him a little bit before the start of the formal session, mentioning that my older brother was going to be in a production of The Zoo Story in his High School, until the play got shut down. That was sort of funny.

We go to a lot of these types of art events. I never want to go, but I am always glad I went. It is a good thing that Doreen doesn’t let me off the hook as often as I would hope.

April 5, 2010

A Bald Eagle!

This may be hard to believe, but I just saw a Bald Eagle fly by my office window, being chased by two Grackles!

This is the first time I have ever seen a bald eagle in the wild.