Divestment: Intermission

Posted on October 29, 2008 by Steve

I took the week off. Incidental disposals during the time included the October issue of The Atlantic, which I finished before the September issue, and a pair of handles that I dug up from the basement and applied to bathroom cabinets.

Looking ahead, I suspect that 52 weeks will be a stretch. Thanks to my habit of occasional trips to McKay's, my book collection no longer has many easy candidates, though I could part with some college textbooks. The CD rack has some titles that haven't been played for years, which might get me through a week or two. After that, I'll be counting dust bunnies from under the fridge.

Selling It

Posted on October 24, 2008 by Steve

Here's a NYT book review.

As a publisher, how do you get the most bang out of this copy? Put these excerpts on the back cover:
"An exciting spy story, which is at the same time a lively international comedy ... A well-informed, up-to-the-minute political parable, incisive and instructive ... rich ... poignant ... fascinating."

After reading the book, I suggest excerpts more along these lines:
"Portentous ... rather wooden ... Mr. le Carré is less good at portraying ... professional spies ... A sham and a mess ... distressing ... horse manure ... inherently pointless."

"Selling It" borrowed from the entertaining feature from Consumer Reports.

Divestment: Week 10

Posted on October 22, 2008 by Steve

10/16: Trashed some doily-like placemats. They reminded me of another Feynman anecdote.

10/17: There was an opened jar of peanut butter in my desk drawer. It was that natural stuff, with the oil separated on top, and seemed to be holding up pretty well after some months of neglect, so I moved it to the office refrigerator.

10/18: Aesop's Fables left in the men's room at Ikea.

10/19: A jar of Creatine powder and some dated spices were eliminated during a top-of-the-fridge cleaning.

10/20: An iClicker sold on eBay for $10.51. Completed listings showed prices in the $20 range, but I neglected to consider that we are now in mid-semester. I also moved that peanut butter to the trash.

10/21: Left a pair of outsized mugs with saucers in the office kitchen with a note reading "free to good home."

10/22: A medley of diverse liquids, solids, and gels found under the bathroom sink. The mugs are now serving as sugar packet containers.

Oil Wager update

Posted on October 22, 2008 by Steve

Several years ago I was sufficiently impressed by Julian Simon's book The Ultimate Resource to emulate his famous wager with latter-day Malthusian Paul Ehrlich. In my bet, as documented in the dusty archives of Fiat Lux, I argued that the price of a barrel of crude oil would be lower in ten years than it was in December 2005, as compared to the price of a Big Mac. At that time it cost 19.2 Big Macs to get a barrel of light sweet crude.

Simon preferred to compare commodity prices to the consumer price index, or mean wages, to show that the resource is more easily obtained regardless of inflation. My betting partner felt that the U.S. dollar was too unstable to use these indices, so we settled on The Economist's Big Mac Index, which has been fairly flat so far, rising from $3.06 to $3.57.

Today oil dropped into win territory for me for the first time in over a year. We're only about a third of the way through the term, so it will be interesting to see what comes next.


Who Said It

Posted on October 21, 2008 by Steve

[A country's] leader ... has ordered the abolishment of most of the government ministries and handing over their powers to the people. "For years, [citizens] have been unhappy with the workings of their country's ministries which have been transformed into a labyrinthine bureaucracy in which corruption and maladministration reign," [the leader] told [his] parliament late on Sunday.

"Apart from the main departments of defence, internal security and foreign affairs and those responsible for strategic projects like the Great Man-Made River and airport and road construction," state ministries will be "abolished" the ... leader said, according to AFP. The 37-billion-dollar a year budget allocated to the ministries should instead "be shared among the people so that they can manage their affairs themselves," [the leader] told the session of the General People's Congress in the coastal city of [...].

According to him, the cabinet is not needed as it had failed to manage the country's huge oil earnings. He stressed big projects were behind schedule and so ordinary people should themselves devise a new way of sharing out oil revenues. "All citizens have the right to benefit from the oil funds. They should take the money and do whatever they want with it," he said, according to Reuters.

"Projects in several sectors are pending. This is a proof that the committees have failed. It's a failure. The administration has failed. The committees have failed in everything. They could not even train good artists and singers." "These committees will be replaced spontaneously by real committees to be created everywhere by citizens. Citizens will get part of the oil revenue directly. They don't need intermediaries," he said.

Divestment: Week 9

Posted on October 15, 2008 by Steve

10/9: Got rid of the box a kitchen knife came in that we won't be returning after all, and some rubber hose.

10/10: Trashed four or five pairs of old underwear. The labels had come loose, revealing scratchy hardened glue. I bet that doesn't happen to Michael Jordan. (Back-dated from Saturday.)

10/11: Left Frankenstein at Panera in Reston Town Center.

10/12: A bucket of gravel had been sitting in the laundry room for some time. Yes, a bucket of gravel. You just never know. I dumped it into a void under the front porch and covered it over with cement left over from another project. I might have tossed in some gold ingots too, I can't remember.

10/13: Threw out some old socks, and returned a power supply to MicroCenter.

10/14: More basement scraps: plywood, drywall, and backerboard.

10/15: Rudyard Kipling's "Baa Baa Black Sheep and The Gardner" tossed into the bed of a pickup truck parked at George Mason University.

Divestment: Week 8

Posted on October 08, 2008 by Steve

10/2: I forgot to get rid of anything.

10/3: Left "51 Languages of the World" CD-ROM on top of an Exxon pump.

10/4: Trashed a worn-out pair of navy loafers that let puddles leak in through the soles.

10/5: Dumped a satchel. It was old and ragged, but not old and ragged in the good way that a satchel can be.

10/6: Dave told me that he subloaned the copy of Adrift that I loaned him, and I'm hoping the book will have a one-way voyage with a happy ending, like its author. I was going to chuck The Dead out the car window, maybe toward a bus stop, but now I can't find it.

10/7: Left The Dead in the envelope supply box at a drive-up ATM.

10/8: Dropped To Build a Fire and Other Stories in a neighbor's mailbox.

Divestment: Week 7

Posted on October 01, 2008 by Steve

9/25: The second Panasonic stereo speaker. Left out with trash.

9/26: Three panes of glass from the basement. I would have junked them earlier, but what do you do with a three-by-five sheet of glass? Conveniently, the HOA rented a trash container and parked it on the street for the weekend, so I carried them out one by one through the rainy night and chucked them in. The first two were pretty sturdy, but naturally I handled them gingerly on the five-minute walk to the dumpster. The third one gave me a lasting admiration for safety glass. It was thinner and somewhat flexible, but I noticed a "tempered glass" etching in the corner. I've seen this kind of glass withstand some pretty forceful impacts and thought it would be tough enough to make the trip easily. But as I hefted it up over the edge of the dumpster, it exploded into a shower of tiny bits. I leapt back and looked at my hands -- no obvious damage except to a neighbor's peace of mind; he hurled a vulgar imprecation into the night at a presumed vandal. Back home, I found many glittering slivers on my forearms, but they rinsed off in the sink and I got away with just two tiny pinpricks.

9/27: Ventured into the attic and filled a box with sundries: some rotting clothes, dusty books, and random junk for the trash.

9/28: The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, paperback, 1960. Left in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Reston.

9/29: Trashed a pile of old paperwork from the basement archives and a long piece of plastic trim from some abandoned project.

9/30: Some junk from the back of the car. There was an empty spray bottle of glass cleaner. More of a clean-up than a divestment.

10/1: An old GMU phone book. And I started to trash an old satchel, but I got bogged down with disposing of its contents, one item at a time. Several college-era planners, batteries, and some sugar packets were among the discards.