Saturday, December 19, 2009

MicroSoft Does Something Right?

I have, these past few weeks, been taking a look at Windows 7. Maybe it is the competition from Linux (highly likely, since a lot of the "new" features in Win7 were already available in Linux), or maybe it is just how badly they screwed up some things in XP and Vista. But either way, it looks like they have done something good with Win7.

I normally wait a full year before looking into any new product from MicroSoft, but between the way they screwed up with Vista and some favorable reviews I saw this year on Win7, I thought I would take a look at it before the year was up. Plus, I got my wife a netbook, and the only thing I could find was either Vista or Win7. After doing about a week of research, it was an easy choice.

From the fact that all of the programing loads from a single disc - no matter which version you are buying (and there are about 5 versions) - to the way it handles hibernation and switching users, it looks like they have done a better job than any previous editions.

That is not to say I will be totally enamored with it. First, it costs over $100 a copy. Although you can get a family pack of 3 copies for less than the single copy price, a feature only useful to businesses in the past.

I still think, ultimately, Linux will be the way to go. But Win7 ain't bad.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Living Biblically 4

This is the 4th and final part to my review of the book "The Year of Living Biblically"

One of the reasons I recommended this book in the first place is that it provides a bird's eye view of the whole of Christianity. The author sets out, among other things, to look at every facet, denomination, sect, and cult of both Jewish and Christian (although, primarily the Jewish) religions. It is a breathtaking look at the variety of viewpoints and interpretations of the Bible, and despite being centered mostly on Old Testament, I think Christians should find it greatly interesting.

My first three reviews:

I have been told by reliable teachers, once you think you have a good grip on what you think you believe, it is always good to look around at those whom you might have a disagreement with. Sometimes they will give you insight you didn't previously have. Otherwise, it is still good, they can make you do the hard work of justifying your beliefs more precisely.

As I have mentioned before, the author misses the big picture, but he does get some impressive insights right. One of the ones I hadn't seen clearly before was the Sabbath. He got this one more right than I did.

Other reasons for reading (and owning) this book are the excellent lists of "footnotes," the index and the lists of (most of) the books he read while researching and writing this book. He really does have an impressive bibliography.

And I should also mention that, as it is written in diary format, it is a lesson in how to keep a journal, and how to examine that journal - both, for insight and for a good historical reference.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lending to ourselves

To make us look richer.

Those who stop by here that have a real understanding of economics should understand that nothing I post here in economics is prophetic or guinious. What I do here is distill some of the important news of recent times, and flavor it with my own philosophy. Nothing more. My goal is simply to make it understandable to the average Joe.

The numbers used by Wall Street and the govnernment show the economy is truning around, but this is partially an illusion, due to the decline in the value of the dollar.

The biggest recent news, for me, is the slide in the 5 year bond rate, from the boring little dance it did around 2.3% from last spring until this fall. It is now around 2.05%, and I saw 2.00% for a monment last week. The surface reason for this drop in intrest rates is the banking crisis in Dubai. The underlying reson, and the reason it has been staying so low for so long, (remember, a few months ago I said it was formerly 2.9%) is a stealth economy growing in the Washington-Wall Street circles. Seems the Fed has been buying up long term bonds, both government and corporate bonds and securities.

Keeping in mind that the Fed is loaning money to banks
and some other financial institutions at .1% (yest that is one tenth of one percent) this amounts to flooding the markets with free cash. And who is buying up this free cash? Well, it seems the banks are. It seems that, while Washington is publicly telling the banks to loan to homeowners and small businesses, it is quietly structureing the rules so that banks will invest in something safer. Like US treasury bonds. Yes you read that right. The Fed is lending to banks at near zero interest, and the banks are turning around and investing that money in the Fed at 2% to 4%. Free money for banks.

Brave New World
This has sparked a new era of "the dollar carry trade." The term is new, so you might have better luck looking up "yen carry trade" which was a phenomenon in the 90's. Meanwhile, many paniced investers all across the globe (including the coountry of India) are buying up tons of Gold. Not for the first time, the US Mint is short on one once gold coins. While I don't think this is the end of the world in any since, this with what I wrote about the past couple of months, does foretell a new era of increased hardship for the American worker.