Doom and gloom

2009/04/26 at 09:49

If you read my blog regularly, you probably already know that I’ve long been pretty pessimistic about the economy. My over-simplified layman’s take is: since so much of the economic growth of the last couple of decades was based on unsustainable and/or imaginary things (e.g., real estate values; crazy, unregulated investment vehicles,etc.), the new reality–after we stop the decline of the global economy–will be much different. For instance, see this post by Rafe Colburn and my comment about it.
Now, I’ve found an article in The Economist that backs up my pessimism. After going through details of the current and future economic situation, here’s the summary:

The worst is over only in the narrowest sense that the pace of global decline has peaked. Thanks to massive—and unsustainable—fiscal and monetary transfusions, output will eventually stabilise. But in many ways, darker days lie ahead. Despite the scale of the slump, no conventional recovery is in sight. Growth, when it comes, will be too feeble to stop unemployment rising and idle capacity swelling. And for years most of the world’s economies will depend on their governments.
Consider what that means. Much of the rich world will see jobless rates that reach double-digits, and then stay there. Deflation—a devastating disease in debt-laden economies—could set in as record economic slack pushes down prices and wages, particularly since headline inflation has already plunged thanks to sinking fuel costs. Public debt will soar because of weak growth, prolonged stimulus spending and the growing costs of cleaning up the financial mess. The OECD’s member countries began the crisis with debt stocks, on average, at 75% of GDP; by 2010 they will reach 100%. One analysis suggests persistent weakness could push the biggest economies’ debt ratios to 140% by 2014. Continuing joblessness, years of weak investment and higher public-debt burdens, in turn, will dent economies’ underlying potential. Although there is no sign that the world economy will return to its trend rate of growth any time soon, it is already clear that this speed limit will be lower than before the crisis hit.

(Via 3 Quarks Daily)

Science and religion

2009/04/22 at 14:41

The next time I encounter someone who thinks that science and religion are mutually exclusive, I will direct them to this sermon delivered at a synagogue by science journalist Robert Krulwich.
By the way, if you’ve never listened to RadioLab, you’re missing something great. You can subscribe to the Radiolab podcast via iTunes.

Good service and bad

2009/04/20 at 14:13

A few weeks ago, we bought a new Maytag washing machine from our local Home Depot. It was delivered and installed a few days later, on a Tuesday. We did a few loads of wash without incident. On Thursday evening, it stopped in the middle of a wash cycle and we smelled a burning rubber odor. It had died.
The next day, I stopped by the Home Depot and talked to the guys in the appliance department. They said that they had to talk to Maytag in order to see how to proceed. They called me back later in the afternoon to inform me that Maytag would send a repairman out the following Tuesday to assess the situation.
My wife and I found that really unacceptable for two reasons: 1.) we’d be without a working washing machine for at least a few more days, and 2.) Home Depot was passing the buck to Maytag for a product we bought from them.
I talked with the Home Depot guy again and he said that they would like to help us out by just swapping out our dead washer with another from their stock. The manager would could make this happen would be in on Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday afternoon, the manager called and made arrangements to do the swap. I was not home, but my wife said that the guys who brought over the new washer were clearly not trained appliance installers; they had multiple difficulties in getting the one washer out and the new one installed. In the process, they managed to put one large gouge and several cuts in the linoleum floor in the laundry room and to scratch our hardwood floors.
We were happy that Home Depot had tried to circumvent Maytag’s bureaucracy and to provide good customer service, but we were not too pleased with the floor damage.
The Home Depot store filed a claim with their insurance company for the damage. The adjustor came out a couple of days later, and we received a check a few days after that. The amount that they awarded us will pay for the damage and then some.

In memoriam

2009/04/07 at 12:53

Hannah and Tippie I’m sad to report that this morning, we had Tippiedog put to sleep. She was about 15 or 16 years old, and, as this photo shows, had been a member of our family since 1995 or 1996. We already miss her greatly.