Don't read the fine print

Did you here about the great quarter we just had? GDP grew by 1.9%. Not to bad considering banks are failing and everyone is running around like the wold is ending.

There is only one problem. The number is only believable if you think that inflation was less then the headline consumer price index.From Credit Writedowns…..

What you see above is the GDP deflator series. This is how the US government gets from nominal GDP to the GDP number we all hear on TV. What’s interesting about these numbers is the GDP deflator uses its own inflation gauge , which is entirely different than the CPI.

Look at the highlighted numbers for Q3 2007 and the last quarter. How is it that inflation was 1.5% in Q3 2007 and 1.1% in Q2 2008? Are they smoking something? Uh, fellas, inflation has been rising, not falling to 1.1%. Hmmm.

Nominal GDP only grew 3.0% in Q2, so Q2’s real GDP number of 1.9% is so obviously false that I expect it to be revised down significantly next year.

If you go to his site, you can see the numbers for yourself. (h/t Market Movers)

Archimedes's Computer

From the New York Times…..

Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument’s back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar.

In the journal report, the team led by the mathematician and filmmaker Tony Freeth of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, in Cardiff, Wales, said the month names “are unexpectedly of Corinthian origin,” which suggested “a heritage going back to Archimedes.”

No month names on what is called the Metonic calendar were previously known, the researchers noted. Such a calendar, as well as other knowledge displayed on the mechanism, illustrated the influence of Babylonian astronomy on the Greeks. The calendar was used by Babylonians from at least the early fifth century B.C.

Now you now its cool to grow your own food

From On The Level…

For an upfront fee, the company will design and plant an organic vegetable garden in the customer’s backyard. Customers then have the option of maintaining and harvesting the vegetables themselves or paying a weekly fee for MyFarm to handle it. This movement appears to be growing; after two months of operation, the owner has already installed 10 gardens and signed up an additional five clients.

He Did It

From The San Fransisco Chronicle….

Cutting the pay of about 200,000 state workers to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour would save California as much as $1.2 billion a month, the governor’s office said. Such workers would get regular pay plus back pay once a new budget is approved.

The layoffs of nearly 22,000 temporary, seasonal and student workers would save the state as much as $28.5 million a month, the governor’s office added. It is not clear whether workers laid off would be rehired when a new budget is enacted.

Slashing state worker pay will likely face a legal challenge from state Controller John Chiang, who has the responsibility to disburse pay checks, saying he will not go along with the governor.

Why mass transit is not as energy efficient as many people think

From Brad Templeton

A full bus or trainload of people is more efficient than private cars, sometimes quite a bit more so. But transit systems never consist of nothing but full vehicles. They run most of their day with light loads. The above calculations came from figures citing the average city bus holding 9 passengers, and the average train (light or heavy) holds 22. If that seems low, remember that every packed train at rush hour tends to mean a near empty train returning down the track.

Transit vehicles also tend to stop and start a lot, which eats a lot of energy, even with regenerative braking. And most transit vehicles are just plain heavy, and not very aerodynamic. Indeed, you’ll see tables in the DoE reports that show that over the past 30 years, private cars have gotten 30% more efficient, while buses have gotten 60% less efficient and trains about 25% worse. The market and government regulations have driven efforts to make cars more efficient, while transit vehicles have actually worsened.

Lots of charts and graphs in the essay.

The Importance of Being Educated

This personal narrative on the pursuit and application of college degrees reminds me of the importance of being educated (ranks right up there with the importance of being earnest). Usually stories like this end with “. . .and that’s why it’s so important to get a degree!” No wonder, because you need a college degree to figure out the logic of it.

Employers may have to reconsider the requirement of college degrees if credit continues to dry up as educational costs climb. Then again, it’s really more likely that we will print money to give to students so they can pay to go to college so that they can earn the money we printed for them.

Full disclosure: I got printed money in my back pocket.

Its been a cold summer for those up north

Anchorage Daily News….

Right now the so-called summer of ’08 is on pace to produce the fewest days ever recorded in which the temperature in Anchorage managed to reach 65 degrees.

That unhappy record was set in 1970, when we only made it to the 65-degree mark, which many Alaskans consider a nice temperature, 16 days out of 365.

This year, however — with the summer more than half over — there have been only seven 65-degree days so far. And that’s with just a month of potential “balmy” days remaining and the forecast looking gloomy.