October 26, 2005

WOAH

World Organization for Animal Health

WOAH. Mmm... That doesn't look right. WHOA. That's what I was thinking. This isn't as funny anymore.

Posted by kstroke at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2005

Housing Bubble

Contrary to what some may say, housing prices can fall at a startling rate. Quite a bit more startling, both in speed and distance, than some would have you believe. Just check out the numbers in this article.

October 23, 2005
Slippery Devil, That Real Estate 'Bubble'
By MOTOKO RICH and DAVID LEONHARDT
JUST about everybody has taken to using the word "bubble" when talking about the housing market.

Among the optimists who have embraced the idea is a condominium developer in Miami who is running an advertisement for two new properties that shows a woman blowing an enormous chewing-gum bubble above the word "Boom!" And at the Mortgage Bankers Association, the chief economist, Doug Duncan, says he subscribes to the Don Ho way of thinking, referring to the singer's hit, "Tiny Bubbles."

But the pessimists aren't surrendering the metaphor they started. Robert Shiller, an economist whose 2000 book predicted the stock market crash, has re-released the book with a new cover warning of "the world wide real estate bubble and its aftermath."

All of which leads to the question: Does the word "bubble" have any meaning anymore?

In some cases, the word indicates a market in which prices have gone up so far and so fast that they are destined to crash, as some fretted when a recent report showed that Manhattan apartment prices had dropped 13 percent from July through September.

Others use "bubble" to suggest that prices could drift along for years to come. They might trail inflation for as much as a generation, even if the nature of real estate, with its slow and infrequent transactions, prevents a Nasdaq-like collapse.

To many developers, brokers and bankers - not to mention homeowners - who all have a big stake in the boom, the word has come to symbolize a fabulous market that is likely to slow eventually. The 15 percent annual price jumps of recent years will gently ease into 5 or 8 percent increases, they say.

Even some who insist there is no bubble in real estate use a similar metaphor. David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors and the author of a recent book urging people to buy more real estate, said "air will come out of the balloon" in coming months.

It is still not clear who will end up being right about house prices, but the vast housing industry has already chalked up one victory by muddying the linguistic waters like this. If the true worrywarts convince you that there is indeed a bubble, but real estate agents tell you that it is not so bad, you might just go ahead and buy a vacation home with no money down.

Grant Barrett, a lexicographer for Oxford University Press in New York, compares this obfuscation to the linguistic tactics of politics.

"It's that weird behavior of trying to make a word mean what you want it to mean," Mr. Barrett said. "We call it the thesaurus defense: it's basically redefining a word in order to suit their own point of view and in order to make themselves feel right or sound right."

To be fair, there is no precise economic definition of a bubble, and uncovering one in the housing market is particularly tricky. When the same question came up about the stock market in the late 1990's, the terms of the debate were clearer. People who used the word "bubble" generally meant that stock prices would soon fall sharply, which they did.

But the real estate market is not nearly as volatile as the stock market. Deals are not done in a day. When house sellers cannot get the price they want, they often wait, instead of panicking. The worst declines in real estate values usually happen over years, often at the hands of inflation rather than in the form of a sudden decline.

That means that even popped bubbles do not always go by that name. During the most recent real estate downturn, in the late 1980's and early 1990's, prices fell by more than 10 percent in New York and more than 20 percent in Los Angeles, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Adjusted for inflation, the losses were far worse: about 30 percent in parts of the Northeast and even more than that in Southern California. Prices peaked in about 1988 and did not return to their highs - relative to the price of everything else in the economy - until about 2000.

In Boston, where prices fell 25 percent in the early 1990's, after adjusting for inflation, "people were bringing checks to the table" to cover shortfalls in selling prices because their mortgages were larger than what the buyer paid, said Robert Buckley, a real estate lawyer in Boston.

Yet there is far less talk today about the 1990's real estate crash than there is about the 2000 stock market crash, despite the current obsession with housing. Slow declines are simply not as memorable, and real estate agents like to talk in terms of list prices, which present a sunnier if less meaningful picture than inflation-adjusted numbers do.

"I don't believe real estate acts in any way that could be a bubble, because a bubble pops and real estate doesn't explode overnight," said Pamela Liebman, chief executive of the Corcoran Group, one of New York's largest real estate firms. What happened in Manhattan in the first half of the 1990's, she said, was "a slow leaking."

Adding to the current confusion is a flurry of recent statistics that have pointed every which way. The Commerce Department reported last week that the number of homes starting to be built last month surged more than 10 percent compared with a year ago, a sign of builder optimism. But the number of existing homes for sale in several markets, including New York, Boston and Washington, is also rising, as is the average amount of time it takes to sell a home. In Manhattan, the recent fall in apartment prices caused The New York Post to exclaim, "Real Estate in Bubble Trouble."

Taken as a whole, the numbers suggest that the hottest markets really are cooling off, in a way that seems more serious than other pauses of recent years. Still, both versions of the boom's end - the gentle one and the harsh one - look possible. So both definitions of bubble remain in play.

For the average homeowner, though, a definition of bubble that avoids all these subtleties might be the best one of all. "Anyone who bought after you bought," suggests Erin McKean, editor in chief of the Oxford American Dictionary in Chicago, "bought in a bubble."

Posted by kstroke at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2005

TREC

http://trec.nist.gov/

Posted by kstroke at 06:49 PM | Comments (0)

No credit

Been hearing a lot of 'Listen to Your Heart' on the radio. It's a nice enough rendition of the Roxette song and the dance mix is pretty good as far as those things go, but I never hear any mention of Roxette. They made sure to attribute NIN as the orginal artist for the Johnny Cash remake so I wonder why they can't seem to do the same for Roxette.

Posted by kstroke at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2005

Wikipedia Critique

I think this guy's a little right, and a little wrong about the quality of Wikipedia. I think Wikipedia's greatest strengths are its breadth of information and its free access, and I think most people use it knowing that there's a possible trade-off with the depth of the information.

Most Wikipedia entries that are available in traditional encyclopedia probably don't describe the material nearly as well as the paper version. I'd be surprised and dismayed if they did. It's a bunch of paid editors and writers against a motley collection of random people who may or may not be knowledgable, objective, fluent, etc. The underpinnings of economics would be turned inside out if the professionals were worse on average than the amateurs about the same subject matter. The most benefit comes when the amateurs cover something the pros don't.

I'm fairly confident that the Encyclopedia Britanica doesn't have any entries on b-trees, and Encarta certainly doesn't (it suggested entries having to do with the lumber industry). I'd like to check Britanica, but you have to pay to use the online version and I don't feel up to jumping through the hoops for a 30 day trial. I doubt any general encyclopedia will ever have an entry for b-trees. It's really a subject for computer science textbooks, but even if you have one handy, it's nice to have an alternative resource with a different set of references. Wikipedia's breadth of topics is its quality.

The argument that Wiki-fans shouldn't respond with "if you see something broken, you can fix it" is flawed. You can argue that the Wiki-fans' view of the ecology of users is wrong, but to complain about the inaccuracies of entries without writing corrections is to simply be a part of the ecology. You pay restaurants to serve you and you have the right to complain, but if you told your mom that her food was terrible, she'd respond with "well, there's the kitchen." And you should count yourself lucky if that's all she responded with.

The Wiki ecology (really any collective) consists of a number of species including leeches and hosts (or more generally sinks and sources). Knowing that an entry is wrong makes you a potential host. Contributing solidifies you in that role. Complaining without contributing makes you a whining leech who's unwilling to be a host. The assumption is that there are enough hosts out there to cover any entry that any leech may want. This may or may not be the case, but regardless, it is entirely valid in this paradigm to say "if you think you can supply the leeches better, do it, or else quit complaining or quit leeching."

Incorrect knowledge masquerading as correct knowledge is really bad when combined with consumers who assume that everything is correct. For those who know that an entry may be incorrect and are willing to fact check, Wikipedia plugs important holes by covering uncovered topics and offering different/multiple perspectives.

Posted by kstroke at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2005

Programming Pearls

Programming Pearls web references.

Posted by kstroke at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2005

Musical Saw

Haha, musical saw.

Posted by kstroke at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

Kleenex Ultra Soft

Kleenex Ultra Soft really is ultra soft.

Posted by kstroke at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2005

PSP Research

To look at later: http://seamonkey420.tech-recipes.com/psp.html

Posted by kstroke at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2005

Nintendo Revolution

Fake Nintendo ON video: here. It'd be cool if it was real.

Real Nintendo Revolution controller video: here. Too cool. Tokyo Game Show presentation (includes previously linked trailer, but you should watch the trailer on its own b/c it's a better quality video).

Pointless, but kind of fun.

Mario DDR!

Posted by kstroke at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)