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May 31, 2008

Trolling for Nano-Pundit Links: Nanopaper Soaks Up Oil Spills « Stuff Important to Me »

Cool stuff. Because I'm all about technology helping keep the environment clean. We aren't going to roll back the clock and return to primitivism. Technology will make things dirty, and we must use technology to clean it up:

It looks like paper. It feels like paper. It's even made like paper. But this paper, made from metal nanowires, can sit in water for months and never get wet, while soaking up to 20 times its weight in oil.


By itself, the nanopaper sucks up water just like normal paper. But by coating the nanopaper with siloxane vapor, a common polymer, the researchers turned it from a super hydrophilic material into a super hydrophobic material, repelling water while attracting oil.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
America: What Kind of Society Are We? « Social Issues »

The thought just struck me. We are called a capitalist nation, and Sweden is a socialist nation, and China is stuck somewhere in between, but moving towards becoming a free market nation (while there is a strong sentiment on the Left in the US to move towards becoming a socialist nation).

But reading this article inspired the thought that calling the US a capitalist nation or capitalist economy isn't really correct. At least, it would be more correct to say that we are an Ownership nation. We want to own things, where we stay, what we do. Nearly everyone aspires to ownership. Those who don't aspire to ownership are often shunned or looked down upon by those who do.

That explains some of the social tensions in our nation better than racism, sexism, or other prejudice.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 30, 2008

Politics and the State of the Union « Politics As Usual »

I dunno.
At this point, I don't think I care much anymore.

Democrats have fully and openly demonstrated their complete childishness and lack of integrity as a national party and as national-level politicians. With the rise of the internet, they aren't even hiding it any more. Then again, when caught, they flat-out deny it and are never punished for their prevarications. The fact that so many people still vote for Democrats makes me figuratively ill.

Republicans should win every single election in a landslide.

Sure, congressional Republicans have openly demonstrated they are greedy and willing to compete with Democrats for buying votes.

But the nation and many states clearly become more lawless, more chaotic, and less strong economically whenever Democrats take control.

It's obvious, people!

Then again, even as much as the Democrats willfully ignore the Constitution, I'm confident the pendulum will swing and we will someday have a nation of sensible, rational conservatives once more.

I'm old and crotchety enough to not worry about it anymore. The nation may be going to hell in a handbag, or it might not. In any case, things will come around. It probably felt much like this back in the 1920s, too, if not worse. The nation made it through okay.

Heck, maybe I'll find myself on a political path that will end with me helping bring about the change for a more rational nation, more rational legal code, and more rational voting populace.

In any case, I'm going to keep on doing what I'm supposed to and not get overwrought about stuff.

I think I'm really getting the hang of the Duty/Responsibility stuff.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 19, 2008

GM Has A Good Idea « Car Issues »

Amazing, isn't it?

I can get behind this one:

GM advocates MPG displays in all vehicles.

Make it so.

My 1986 Chrysler Laser had one, I don't see why all cars can't have one these days.

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Posted by Nathan at 04:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Kansas: Carry On, My Wayward Son « Music/Guitar »

Not, as I had originally thought, a re-telling of the Prodigal Son parable.

They do a really good job of reproducing the recorded version.

I think the way Steve Walsh switches microphones and gets down on the bongoes is pretty entertaining and/or amusing.

They all look like they're having a good time.
Except for the drummer, of course, who looks 100% bored.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 18, 2008

This is why I'm not that worried about a Dem majority in Congress.

The country is finally coming around to the conservative point of view on most issues (taxation, health care, guns, and the conservative view is even gaining ground on abortion issues).

I don't care which party pushes conservative issues, as long as conservative issues are pushed.

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Posted by Nathan at 05:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2008

CMG Mortgage Accelerator « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Okay, none of y'all came through with any input when I first posed the question about alternate mortgage options, but I went ahead and kept researching.

I finally decided its on the level.

CMG Mortgage is registered with the Bay Area Better Business Bureau, and has no complaints.

The Mortgage Accelerator is not for everyone. You need good credit to get it, and you need to be disciplined enough to not think "Oh, I've got plenty of time to pay off/down the line of credit...!" If you spend too much, you'll put yourself in difficulty, because you have to delay spending money as much as possible to let the interest cancellation work.

The fees are only a little higher than a traditional mortgage. The rate does float, right from the start, but you can put a 1% cap that extends for a full 5 years for a little extra in closing costs.

The upshot of it is, if we paid every extra dime toward a conventional mortgage, we'd pay off our mortgage in 5 and a half years, and pay about $42k in interest. We'd have to leave a little extra in the bank for emergencies, and if we had a big emergency, the only choice would be to use a credit card. But with the mortgage accelerator, it looks like we can pay it down in 2 years and 9-10 months, and only spend about $14.8k in interest.

I will provide updates as I go to let you know if run into any surprises. I've been blogging for nearly 6 years now, so you can rest assured I'll be here in 2 years and 10 months to tell you if the mortgage was paid off as expected.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Quote of the Day « Quotes You Can Steal »
Some editors are failed writers, but then, so are most writers.
-- T. S. Eliot
Unfortunately, this blogger is also one.

-- Nathan of Brainfertilizer Fame

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Posted by Nathan at 02:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 12, 2008

Journey: Lay it Down « Music/Guitar »

Another good song off the same album. Steve does a better job keeping closer to the recorded version while still adding vocal ornamentation than he does on Dead or Alive or Stone in Love.

Neal is, of course, dead on the recorded version. Like clockwork, that guy.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
2004 Suzuki Verona: A Retrospective « Car Issues »

Back in January of 2005, To celebrate an upcoming promotion at work (about 5 months early, as it turns out), I wanted to replace my 1990 Toyota Corolla with a nicer vehicle.

Unfortunately, at heart I am a skinflint. I love Hondas, and like Toyotas, but the $18k starting price on new price on an Accord made me choke, and a Camry was out of the question. I knew I could get a Civic or Corolla for about $14k, but that would still be a base model with few options.

I checked out a Ford Focus, but was unimpressed with its small size, road noise, and bumpy ride. The salesman said, "Have you thought about a Suzuki?" I sneered at first, but he seemed insistent, so I shrugged and agreed to do a test drive in a 2005 Suzuki Forenza. It was very nice, and just over $14k. It seemed fairly peppy, but not enough to satisfy me. I tested a standard-transmission Forenza and it had more of the driving feel I wanted, but the fuel efficiency on an automatic was 21/28, and the efficiency on a standard was...21/28. I couldn't understand it then, and I don't understand it now. Then I tried a 2005 Suzuki Reno, which was a chopped-off Forenza, basically. I was seeking a "hot hatch" feel, and the Reno just didn't have it. On the other hand, it had an MP3-capable disc player. Moreover, it offered slightly better driving feel and fuel efficiency over the Forenza. I almost got it, but the only one they had on the lot had a tendency to stall when you gave it the gas. Uh-uh. I wasn't going to buy a malfunctioning new car. The salesman listened to my complaints, and offered me a test drive in an Aerio. It had a better engine with more pep and better fuel efficiency than even the Reno. Ugly as sin, but a better engine inside, and about the same price. But before I even got it off the lot, I knew I hated its driving sensation. Ugh!
The Forenza had the look, feel, and price I wanted. The Reno had the price and the MP3 player. The Aerio had the engine I wanted. Put 'em together, and I would have been pleased as punch.
On a whim, I think the salesman said they had some leftover Verona's from 2004 for about the same price. It would be a step up for a discount.
I was hesitant, but on the test drive: woah.
It was the smoothest car I've ever driven. It had speed-sensitive steering that gave me precise control at any speed. It seemed to accelerate well; not sports-car level, but not bad. The salesman seemed 10 feet away in the passenger seat. The dials were nicely back-lit with a soft blue glow. The leather-wrapped steering wheel felt very nice. The car itself looked like the previous-generation Camry (which I liked better than the 2005 model, anyway). The only problem was the fuel efficiency with just 20/27.

I went home and researched the car. editors gave it a 6.1 rating, but owners gave it an 8.1, which isn't bad. And every car I've driven has gotten better than the listed mileage. "True cost to own" estimate seemed to indicate it would be inexpensive to keep. And it had a 7 year, 100k mile warranty!
(Foreshadowing paragraph)
It had a 2.4 liter in-line six-cylinder engine. That's about the size of competitor's 4-cylinder engines. Its strength was its smoothness. Its weakness was, well, a snarky slogan for the Verona's engine would be: "All the power of a 4-cyl! All the economy of a 6-cyl!"

But it was just $14,200. I would get a Camry/Accord-level car for a Civic-level price! The $4000 price difference can buy quite a bit of gas.
So I bought it.

It cruised very nicely. It got about 25 miles to the gallon in mixed driving for the daily commute.

I took a long road trip in it. I was going to drive from Spokane, Washington over to Montana, then down to see some friends in Denver, Colorado. We had an event planned for Saturday night, but I had to be back in Spokane for work Monday morning. So I would get up around 9am and drive straight through to Spokane in one day. That's 1,092 miles, if you don't want to take the time to look it up yourself.

All went according to plan. I had plenty of music for the (non-MP3) CD player. I left Denver Sunday morning, and filled up once in Buffalo, Wyoming, where I stopped for lunch; once in Livingston, Montana, where I ate dinner with my sister, and the next morning after arriving in Spokane.

I spent 15 hours in the car that day. I spent from 9am Sunday to 1am Monday, with two half-hour breaks. I did not feel any discomfort until the last 90 minutes. I cannot imagine spending even just 8 hours driving any other car without more frequent breaks, and without killing my back, neck, legs, etc.

Even better, that car did great in the mountain passes of western Montana. It was raining slightly, visibility was fair to poor, but the car was willing to take all the switchbacks at a continual 70 mph without protest or overworked effort. There were some times when I felt the car was riding right on the edge of traction as we went around a curve at 70 I would just cut the turn a little tighter, and the car would just settle right into the track. It was almost as if following the normal track for a car wasn't taking advantage of its full adhesion capability, so going wider increased the lateral g-force. The car was capable of going tighter without rolling, and when I used that capability, we were more stable.

That car performed better at 70 mph than any other car I've ever driven. It felt more nimble, more stable, more responsive at 70 mph than the many smaller cars I've driven, including Civics and Corollas, do at 40-50 mph.

The car truly was worth the money.

But then I moved to Hawaii. And all of its problems surfaced.

- Its turning radius was slightly below average. Its wide body was slightly wider than average. Space is at a premium in on Oahu (the main island, with 85% of the population on one of the smaller surface areas), and so parking is always tight. The car did not fit well into the parking spaces.
- Most driving on Oahu is stop-and-go, to include on the freeways. For the 14 months I drove it on the island, I never averaged higher than 19 mpg, and usually just 16. I had to fill up the car after traveling just 215 miles, most of the time. Expensive, and frustrating.
- A minor problem caused by the workers who changed the oil highlighted something I didn't realize: Suzuki never sold the Forenza, Reno, or Verona in Hawaii. That meant they didn't train their mechanics in repairs. Which, in turn, meant that the excellent warranty that helped convince me to buy the car was pretty much worthless until I moved back to the mainland. Sure, any repairs were covered, but I had to pay for parts and labor myself, and then they'd reimburse me. Even worse, there was an electronic glitch in the steering wheel stereo controls, which could only be repaired by Suzuki techs; there would be no chance to repair that glitch until I left Hawaii.

The most important thing about retaining a car is your internal dialogue. If you are constantly frustrated, constantly irritated, constantly reminded of your dissatisfaction, you won't keep the car. Every time I looked at the elapsed mileage, I knew I would need to fill up soon and it was a slap in the face of how bad the car was on gas. Every time I tried to change the volume on the CD and it skipped 3-4 tracks (the electronic glitch), I was reminded of the warranty problem. Every time I tried to park the car, or had to squeeze out of the door with 6 inches of room because the car filled the entire space, I was reminded the car just didn't fit in Hawaii. The Verona was made for the ultimate in comfortable and enjoyable freeway driving, and I didn't get to experience it in Hawaii.

I finally sold it for $10,000, just 18 months after purchasing it for $14200 (plus tax, resulted in about $15600, if I recall correctly).

I know it was the right decision. I can't imagine driving the car in Hawaii over the last year with $3+/gallon gas. And now that I drive a 2002 Ford Explorer in a daily commute (until my 1998 Mazda 626 arrives) in Texas with that same gas price, I'm stunned that the larger, heavier, supposedly more wasteful SUV still gets better city mileage (18 on last fill-up, better than the advertised 16) than my old Verona (averaged 17; far, far worse than the advertised 21).

Still, at times I miss that car. I see on Edmunds that the base dealer retail price for a 2004 Suzuki Verona S is less than $8k. You should be able to find an individual selling a low-mileage and/or excellent condition for far less. And I'm tempted, because recently I've seen other Suzuki car products (specifically, the late-90s, early 00's Esteem station wagon), lasting longer and looking better than their more-appreciated Toyota and Honda rivals. I don't see many Veronas; maybe they aren't lasting at all. But if they are, they might just be a Camry-clone steal.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2008

Page Rank « Blogging »

I now have a page-rank of 5. Which means that I'm now getting 100+ hits a day, and 90 of them are from Google Searches.

Is there any way I can make financial use of this page rank? Is "5" nothing worth sneezing at, or nothing worth crowing about?

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Posted by Nathan at 09:45 PM | Comments (46) | TrackBack (0)
Journey: Dead or Alive « Music/Guitar »

One of my all-time favorite songs:


Bad MP3 Transfer:

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Posted by Nathan at 01:04 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)

May 09, 2008

Home Equity Line of Credit Scam? « Stuff Important to Me »

It's supposedly a way to pay your mortgage down more quickly.

I first heard about the CMG Mortgage's Home Ownership Accelerator HELOC, and the associated video; then through my research on that company, heard about First United Financial's Money Merge Account, which sounds a little better, maybe.

Honestly, they both sound a little too good to be true. Since I'm currently putting all my extra income/cash toward paying down my homeloan, I could theoretically pay down a $186k loan in 3.5 years living life normally, instead of the current 5.5 years with belts tightened severely...

Does anyone know anyone who has done this?

The math works. The details are sketchy. The fine print (I haven't seen yet) scares me.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Weird Last Names « Stuff Important to Me »

I saw a guy on base with the last name of "Balthazar".


[shrug] Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of it, but that sounds like one of the minor deities' names in D&D. Or the name of a demon in some Christian morality novel.

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Posted by Nathan at 11:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 07, 2008

Semi-Obscure 70s Bands for $300, Please « Music/Guitar »

Had a hit with one of the all-time great jazz/fusion songs.

Yes, that would be Sugarloaf. Stupid video below the fold.

Read More "Semi-Obscure 70s Bands for $300, Please" »

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Posted by Nathan at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 06, 2008

Obscure 70s Groups for $200, Please « Music/Guitar »

What is...Head East?

That's correct (below the jump)

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Posted by Nathan at 02:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

May 05, 2008

Too Obvious for the GOP to Use, Apparently « Politics As Usual »

Everyone's blaming President Bush for the economic downturn.

I know it's easier to blame one person than to blame a group, but it seems obvious to me:
We had an excellent economy until the first part of 2007, and then things started to go badly.

What happened in early 2007?

We sat the new members of Congress! To include handing leadership of both the House and Senate to the Democrats.

There's your economic downturn right there.

They did nothing good. They failed to reign in earmarks. They did nothing to improve our energy situation. Had they implemented just half of the energy policy President Bush recommended, we'd be in far better shape than we are now.

The 2008 Economy: When Democratic Party Policies Came Home to Roost.

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Posted by Nathan at 01:46 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)