Sunday, November 30, 2008
Studying the area, I have learned today a new concept in water management: "Interruptible customers". The whole Western United States is suffering a severe drought situation. The Colorado River basin has received no more than half of its normal amount of rain. The Americans have a plan calling for the implementation of aggressive water conservation measures – the curtailment (or reduction) of water supplies to agriculture and customers other than cities and industry, reducing releases for environmental needs and implementing further water-use reduction measures for all customers under drought contingency plans. The latest projections indicate that the next “trigger point” will be reached on Jan. 1, 2009, causing the cutting off supply to interruptible customers . If weather patterns hold, we’ll likely see further curtailment measures.
The Mexicali Valley receives its water thanks to the 1944 Water Treaty relating to the Colorado River, which provides that the USA will deliver a guaranteed annual quantity of 1,850,234,000 cubic meters. This is more water than has the Israeli Water System. My interlocutors here yesterday appeared unconcerned by any water problem or scarcity or drought or climate change, saying that the USA will always supply them all the water as obliged by the treaty. I hope it is so and they are not in the list of interruptible customers.
The Treaty also provides that the United States shall adopt measures to ensure that the water delivered annually to Mexico upstream of Morelos Dam shall have an average salinity of no more than 115 +30 parts per million over the annual average salinity of Colorado River water arriving at Imperial Dam. The USA has set up a desalination plant at Yuma to provide better water for agriculture, and possibly also to comply with the Treaty. Apparently, the Treaty assumed hat water would be used for power generation, and that the problem was the disposition of surpluses, not prolonged droughts. Nor a change in the climate.
el cadáver desmembrado estaba desperdigado sobre la calle y se pudo apreciar que exhibía dos orificios de proyectil de arma de fuego que le ingresaron en ambos ojos. Además de que en el sitio los criminales dejaron una cartulina con la leyenda escrita "esto le va a pasar a los que sigan preguntando por gente de la maña".
Here I am in the Mexicali Valley, larger than the State of Israel and with more water resources. 200,000 hectares of irrigated land - all by flooding - producing wheat, cotton, sorghum and little else. The hydrological system is closely linked to the USA, to the Colorado River basin. Very intelligent and hardworking people, they move fast and energetically as to give a lie to the Speedy Gonzalez stereotype.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Falkenblog has an excellent note on bias. The guy should be a teacher, he has a clear ordered mind and is very didactic. Bias is defined as average α for surviving funds minus average α for all funds, that is the failed ones that have disappeared, are forgotten and are not averaged. It happens in all trades and spheres. In the Hippodrome of La Plata, where I used to go, there were types offering "tips" and asking for a mere 20% of the winnings. They went to ten people with with different tips, and the chance was that one of them won and would throw them a morsel. And the fame of the tipper would grow and grow, and people would ask them tips.
On the other hand, there were the "fúlmines" or "mufosos" or "jettattore" who irradiated "mal de ojo" (bad eye) and were avoided like the lepers in the Middle Age. These reputations were strongly bonding and no one ever shaked his off. Some "fúlmines" were legendary, their names appeared in the hyppodrome papers, and their bets were carefully recorded and studied. One of them, a tall man always dressed in black, always with a black umbrella, made it even to the comics (see illustration) and a film. Contrarians looked out for their company, and there were complicated maneuvres to erase one's bad luck once one has got it. Contrarians are a way of living, they can be found in every walk of life.
Monday, November 24, 2008
During the last hours, ten more persons were executed in Tijuana, Baja California. Six were killed with high powered rifles AK-47 known as "goat horns" and AR-15 caliber 223. In other place, plastic bags containing decapitated heads were found.
Tijuana (OEM).- En las últimas horas, 10 personas fueron ejecutadas en Tijuana. Entre ellas destaca el ataque armado en el que también seis más fueron heridas con rifles de alto poder.Con los nombres de Julio César González Cortez, de 40 años de edad y Juan Carlos Casillas Jiménez, de 36, fueron identificados dos individuos ajusticiados con rifles AK-47 conocidos como "Cuerno de Chivo" y de AR-15 calibre 223 .... Los cuerpos y cabezas estaban dentro de bolsas de plástico.
Baja, here I come.
Investors are not a particularly clear voyant race, but it is deeply worrying.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
A szerkezetátalakítás bejelentése óta gyakorlatilag széthordják a kórházakat; pár száz forintos kisebb műszerek, diagnosztikai eszközök mellett milliós értékeket is rejthetnek a kórház udvarán ki-bejáró autók csomagtartói. A leépíteni tervezett dolgozók közül sokan „átmentik” az eszközöket új munkahelyükre. Az egyik fővárosi kórházban azt mondták: visznek mindent, ami mozdítható.This is Eger, a provincial town in East Europe, so stealing from the State is just about expectable. As far as I can know, no Jews are involved, but a Professor of Law of a large Budapest University found the note personally offensive and wrote back a letter to the editor: How you dare to attack the Defensors of the Hospital, Hungarian patriots, that are protecting national property from foreign exploiters (the Professor may be presuming that the hospital will be sold to Jewish investors?). And goes on saying that had the Hungarian people been stronger, the Magukfajtak (that is, your kind) would not have left Hungary bag in hand, but in them. And then they would not now extend their dirty hands toward the Hungarian people's properties, factories, businesses, hospitals..."
Should I ever wonder why I am in Israel, the Professor has answered me.
"... a Magukfajták nem csomagolták volna ki legendás bőröndjeiket, amik állítólag készenlétben álltak. Nem. Bőröndöstül távoztak volna, de izibe! Önként költöztek volna ki a lopott rózsadombi villáikból, s KISZ- és párttitkárjaik nem tehették volna rá mocskos kezeiket a magyar nép vagyonára, gyárainkra, üzemeinkre, kórházainkra..."
Sudden Debt blogger writes: Everywhere you turn you hear "This is the worst crisis since the Great Depression". In other words, markets are already pretty much discounting a future very similar to it. Not quite there yet, but relatively close if we judge by a single - but extremely important - indicator: oil prices have collapsed by an eye-popping $100 per barrel. Dry cargo charter rates are down by an even more astonishing 95%. And everything has happened with unprecedented speed: just 3-4 months.
Deflation has set in: Some short-term US Treasury bills were quoted below zero per cent. Two-year bond yields at one point fell to 0.96 per cent, the lowest since the two-year note was created in 1976. Yields on the 30-year bond fell to a record low of 3.71 per cent. Money is in train of becoming more expensive, making it difficult for debtors to pay back their mortgages and credit cards.
Market analysts said panic had set in among traders. “Markets are utterly unhinged,” said Bill O’Donnell, a strategist at UBS. “One problem is that financial institutions are powerless to take the other side of panic trades.”
What would have Vladimir Lenin done? (the title of this note means What is to be done? Lenin's famous pamphlet).
I expect the dollar to lose substantial value in the coming months, and that will mean that people with savings will lose money in terms of current dollar. In an inflationary environment, stock prices will go up. It short, a transfer of wealth from the working people to the owners of the means of production, the investors.
On the other hand, I also expect deflation to set in deeply and people will horde cash and not buy anything, for fear of the future. People will fail to pay back their debts, their mortgages and their credit cards. A deflationary spiral will strangle the economy for years on. In Marxist terms, a transfer of resources from the debtors, that is the great mass of Americans, to the creditors, which are the Chinese and the Japanese.
Things are so complicated that only a war can clear up the situation, cause massive destruction of capital, and allow the restart of world economy. It will come as a liberating storm that clears up the confusion. Possibly Lenin would have agreed with me. Luckily I am so old that I may not see it or care for it.
The British are sure a dreadful recession is around the corner and it will hurt a lot of people. The Prime Minister and the opposition are decided to flood the country with money. To emphasize its case, Browne even quoted his father: “a stitch in time saves nine”.
Correction. The number of ejecuciones is thirteen. Including Ciudad Juarez, the papers count 26 ejecutados yesterday in Baja California.
En la capital ocurrieron tres ejecuciones más, incluidos dos hombres cuyos cuerpos sin vida aparecieron en la calle maniatados de pies y manos y con el tiro de gracia en la frente. La tercer víctima corresponde a un hombre que fue asesinado a balazos. En Tijuana, Baja California, las ejecuciones se volvieron a presentar y en las últimas horas ya suman 13 las víctimas, incluida una mujer.It is not frontpage news, so these events must be boring routine. But not everything is death. There is sex, too.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Rafael Correa, Ecuador's President, said that the country will try to avoid paying foreign debt that is considered illegitimate. The public applauded: "The debt has been paid". "The debt was caused through unfair dealing, blackmail and treason. Credit agreements were signed but the money never arrived
." El Ecuador buscará la forma de no pagar la deuda que considera ilegítima. Al menos eso aseguró el presidente de la República, Rafael Correa. Los aplausos estallaron. En el auditorio solo se escuchaba: “la deuda está pagada”. Por un momento se le hizo difícil al Mandatario retomar su intervención para continuar informando: “su peso debe ser trasladado por partes iguales a los responsables de adquirirla con malas artes, chantaje y traición”. Karina Sáenz y Alejandro Olmos, miembros de la Comisión, anunciaron sus conclusiones. “Se firmaron convenios de crédito para entregar dinero fresco al país (por USD 631 millones), que nunca ingresó al país”.Two hundred years of liberty, and Ecuador still focussed on foreign debt.
People will buy T bonds that pay no interest instead of corporate bonds paying 20%, presumable because they are expecting Armageddon.
Don’t panic about the stock market. Panic about the credit markets instead. Interest rate on 3-month Treasuries at 0.02%; interest rate on high-yield (junk) bonds over 20%. This is an economic emergency.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
But that is not the whole story. In the last half hour of trade on Thursday, which is weekend here, someone put on sale a portfolio of about 10 million dollars. Prices collapsed and in some shares, the trading was closed down. Who did it and why? The speculation is that someone with lots of put options caused the collapse of the market, profiting from his options. Otherwise there is no explanation, because no investment house nor a rational investor sells at the last hour of trade such a large amount of shares. It will become clearer in the coming days. Someone commented:
I wouldnt invest in a stock exchange that can be manipulated heavily (-11% on an index) with less than 9 Million Dollars. That's NOTHING. If this created such a move.. it means no buyers on the other side at all. Too low of a volume.But he forgets that the manipulation was made in the last hour of the last day of the week. Traders were taken by surprise.
Follow Up: It was Kesem Mutual Funds that threw the packet to the market, and they say it was a standard end of the day operation, but the weakness of the market was something they did not expect.
A person built a small warehouse and ex post facto started the permitting process. The fire people demanded sprinklers, so he installed them by himself. The firemen demanded that a professional engineer certify that the sprinklers are correctly installed. I checked the thing, signed the paper, and pocketed a cheque enough for filling the gas tank. I hope it will not burn down in the near future.
The factory in Ariel is advancing very fast. I had a fight with the owner because he did not pay me, and today made a final inspection and asked me to submit the bill. He said I did not appreciate his talent, that he was building the new INTEL factory with dozens of inspectors over his head. Maybe I was unappreciative of his talents, true.
I was recommended to another kibbutz kitchen and catering that has problems with the health and environmental authorities. The known same story: a fifty years old structure, built in a time of poverty, the tzena, when Israelis were young and optimistic and did not think that they or the buildings they were erecting, would on be vetust ruins. Pipes were made of low grade iron (see pic), the cement was poor with bad aggregates, things are falling apart and the center doesnt hold. Now they feel time has arrived for an upgrading, and they have invited me submit a proposal, with only one condition. That it should not cost money. No, they dont want to do on the cheap, they dont want to spend money at all. My proposal includes design for infrastructure and training for the workers. They did not sign it yet.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The conflict I identified in Guaranda, Ecuador, is acquiring momentum and may develope into the next international conflict. Earth´s climate is warming up, the high Andean ice caps are melting and the water supply of the high Andean towns is becoming highly irregular. Guaranda used to receive its water from high springs, but now the Andean highlands have temperate climates and are cultivable. Local Indian communities are using up the water for irrigation, leaving little or nothing for the cities. In Ecuador, water rights are regulated by the State, their sale is forbidden and any change in status is extemely difficult. Now the Indians have formulated a Water Law favourable to their interests and demanding to impose it.
Alrededor de 5 000 indígenas se concentraron hoy en El Cajas (frontera entre las provincias de Imbabura y Pichincha) para participar en la entrega oficial del proyecto de Ley de Aguas que fue elaborado por la Ecuarunari, regional sierra de la Conaie. El proyecto plantea el derecho al libre acceso al agua para consumo humano y para las actividades agrícolas. También propone una revisión de las grandes concesiones del agua para el uso industrial. Silverio Cocha, vicepresidente de la Ecuarunari, explicó que con esta Ley se haga efectivo el planteamiento del Buen Vivir, de la nueva Constitución.Ecuador is in its way to become another Bolivia. The water will be used in subsistance agriculture, and the commercial farms, the industries and the cities will dry up. 500 years of racist exploitation are ending. Already a third of the Ecuatorians have left their country and are living in Spain and the States. Another third would leave tomorrow, if allowed.
The International Space Station is an amazing cooperative venture orbiting up in the sky. Ten years after its launch, the station's mass has expanded to more than 627,000 pounds, and its interior volume is more than 25,000 cubic feet, comparable to the size of a five-bedroom house. Through the course of 114 spacewalks and unmatched robotic construction in space, the station's truss structure has grown to 291 feet long so far. Its solar arrays now span to 28,800 square feet, large enough to cover six basketball courts.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Large chunks of Makhteshim are owned by American funds, and I think they are doing much forced selling.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Bad times. NASDAQ collapsed once more, falling another 5%. Oil is under 60 dollars per barrel. A worldwide depression seems imminent. My portfolio is where it was two years back. It is hitting me hard.History repeats itself, word by word. I feel that something is wrong.
Shake, Corpse! said some general in battle, when his adjutant saw him trembing like a leaf. He was ready to die, but his physical body was afraid. The saying is topical, because although I am not feeling stressed, my body does and reacts with visible physical sympthoms, such as an eruption of facial eczema. The stock exchange is doing it, my impossible schedule, my worries. According to actuarial tables, I have about twenty something years more to live. I intend to keep going and maybe to remake my magically disappeared fortune. So why am I killing myself with grandiose projects, hard work and impossible contracts and so on?
I'm not saying this as a figure of speech; Mormon America is to a great extent both a direct cultural and genetic descendant of New England Puritanism! The proportion of "English" ancestry in Mormon America is somewhat exaggerated by the fact that missions were sent to England and so you had direct migrants from Europe to Utah. But this can't explain the whole of the phenomenon, American Mormonism began as a religion of Greater New England. First in upstate New York, and later in northern Ohio.Now that Razib points it out, it is obvious, it is one of those cases where one asks oneself "Why I did not think it first?" The Mormons I knew all look like Yankees. Kevin MacDonald may be happy, the English Puritan ethnia has not disappeared two hundred years ago, it has survived and surfaced intact in Salt Lake City. But Mormons seem to lack the enterprising and inventing vitality of Puritans, and most importantly, the intense intellectual ferment of Puritan New England. May be I am wrong, my familiarity with both Puritans and Mormons is superficial.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Facial Reconstruction Artists are able to produce a credible sculpture on the basis of a few fossil bones. I bet this artist, Brian, injects humor in his macabre work. Below is the finished "boy". Enjoy !
Thursday, November 13, 2008
A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors.Prof. Hamilton is also buying. Interest is low, shares are on the floor and one only has to pick them up. Let me sleep on it. Thanks Professor, you help me to put order in my confusion.
It is now two years that I am full time independent consultant engineer. I completed about 100 different projects and have about 20 on the desk. I have learned a lot and got a good name, clients bring more clients. Wealthy I did became, and rather poor again. The pic is a 200 cubic meter water reservoir for an existing sprinkler system in Natania, for a 2,000 sq m store. I just mailed the design and am taking a minute to start the next one.
We Jews are good swimmers, and the higher ranks of swimming champions are almost as packed with Ashkenazi Jews as chess masters and Nobel Prizes in Economy. Of course I was on the swimming team till age 21 and spent the summers as well-paid beach life guard. So it is no surprise that half of the world champion freestyle relay team is Jewish: Garret Weber-Gale (pic) and Jason Lezak. Quod erat demonstrandum. Phenomenal goy Phelps is an exception.
Mencius Moldbug, a blogger, has an insight:
Well, first, um, he's, um, how can I put this - a communist. With a small 'c,' as his friend Billy Ayers so nicely puts it.I disagree with Mencius Moldbug. The far left has nothing to do with communism. Communists are obsessed with economy, their Bible is ¨The Capital¨. In practice, communist regimes were higly disciplined, with accent on science and technology, and forced industrialization. The disciplined US Communist party has been dead for more than half a century, and it has been replaced by an anarchic, fractured anti-industrialization, anti-globalization (anti-free-trade), ¨green¨, ecology, artisanal-mode of production movement. That American Jews voted for him en masse means that they dont feel menaced by him, on the contrary. In Chicago, some say he is the first Jewish president (HaAretz of this morning).
I'm not even going to start to belabor this point. Arguing that Barack Obama is not a communist is like arguing that Mitt Romney is not a Mormon. Barack Obama is a communist by birth, breeding, education, and profession. His grandparents were communists, his parents were communists, his teachers were communists, his friends are communists, his colleagues are communists, he's a communist. Duh.
In case you hadn't noticed, the current euphemism for "communist" is "progressive." This is not even a new usage. My father's parents always called themselves "progressives," for instance. In fact they were CPUSA members. "Progressive" is also all over the place in my '80s Soviet Life magazines. And La Wik helpfully informs us that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is (a) the largest voting bloc of Democrats in the House, and (b) the affiliation of the Speaker. And now, of course, the President. Summary: the Cold War is over. Communism won.
The small 'c' is well-taken, of course. Obama's faction is the disorganized, SDS, "Maoist," or "New Left" wing of American communism. Ie, not the organized, CPUSA, "Stalinist" or "Old Left" wing - which both my grandparents and Obama's first mentor Frank Marshall Davis were in, whose decline I think was as much cause as effect of the Soviet collapse, and whose remnants were really more for Hillary. And certainly not the defunct Trotskyite wing, whose carcass so weirdly morphed into "neoconservatism."
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Out of the blue I was called to an apartment building development in a neighboring town peopled by djatt chewing folk Jews. The project is rather large for me, with four buildings forming a U, in the cul-de-sac of a panoramic alley. The windows (currently there are no windows yet) look to the East, overlooking the pine tree natural reserve on the Western slopes of the Samarian mountains. The project has been built, apparently, without plumbing drawings (!!) and they used old polyvinyl orange pipes, and not black HDPE ("gabarit") that has replaced it. Apparently, the original plumbing subcontractor tried to join the polyvinyl pipes to the gabarit pipes by heating them, causing the deformation of the polyvinyl rigid pipes, already embedded in the structure. Thus deformed, the buildings have no sewage piping at all. Also, apparently, they have forgotten the need for water supply pipes. As the immortal Cervantes observed: Cosas veredes, Sancho!
I offered several possible solutions, such as running a new pipe system on the outside wall of the building, which was rejected. Second solution was to run the same pipes inside the building, which was rejected too. Thirdly I proposed to break the 20 cm wide cement blocks and run the 4" pipes inside, which was accepted. The owner did not want consult a structural engineer about the possiblity of perforating the skeleton of the building to allow the passing of straight pipes, so pipes will bend and avoid the skeleton.
I should have asked for a lot of money, but I did not. I am mentally-challenged in that department.
Using a sample of 1,000 trainee truckers we report three findings. First, we show a strong and significant relationship between an individual’s cognitive skills and preferences, and between the preferences in different choice domains. The latter relationship may be counterintuitive: a patient individual, more inclined to save, is also more willing to take calculated risks. A second finding is that measures of cognitive skill predict social awareness and choices in a sequential Prisoner's Dilemma game. Subjects with higher CS's more accurately forecast others' behavior, and differentiate their behavior depending on the first mover’s choice, returning higher amount for a higher transfer, and lower for a lower one. After controlling for investment motives, subjects with higher CS’s also cooperate more as first movers. A third finding concerns on-the-job choices. Our subjects incur a significant financial debt for their training that is forgiven only after twelve months of service. Yet over half leave within the first year, and cognitive skills are also strong predictors of who exits too early, stronger than any other social, economic and personality measure in our data. These results suggest that cognitive skills affect the economic lives of individuals, by systematically changing preferences and choices in a way that favors the economic success of individuals with higher cognitive skills.
A large school building in Haiti collapsed, killing between more than 100 children. The collapse happened when a third floor was being added to the building. The school was built without drawings under the direction of Mr Fortain, a teacher of religion.
Photo from the Budapest underground. Message to Israeli president Shimon Peres: Go occupy your Mother, not our country! Peres, during his visit to Hungary, said that Israeli investments in the economy of Hungary are so large that half of the country is owned by Israelis. Nonsense, of course. Peres is a 82 yeas old "elder statesman".
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Natural selection faces a constant battle against the continuing re-emergence of less-than-optimal alleles. Children are almost certainly on average genetically worse than their parents, since parents have survived and reproduced, while children's ability to do so is yet to be testedDienekes means that the reason of humans is reproduction, and those who dont, are defectous.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
This week I had a meeting in the Ministry for the Defense of the Environment in Tel Aviv. Very luxurious building and offices, large rooms and wide lobbies. I asked Nataly, an important officer, if the building was really sick as I had heard. She said that
the building was OK, the people inside was sickThe problem seems to be that the windows do not open, and the people inside suffers from burning eyes, a feeling of suffocation, diseases like head aches, vomit, etc. ¨We cannot breath¨, they complain.
The building were erected by the BOT system (Build, Operate, Transfer) by Africa Israel and Menrav and are rented to the Government. The project cost 450 million shekel in 2005 (about 120,000,000 $). The design included windows that cannot be opened and complete air conditioning installed in the rooftop. The Government says that windows have to be closed for security reasons, as learned from former attacks on govenment buildings. And their strongest argument: no one has ever submitted a scientific report proving that the air was unhealthy or that the office workers were sick more than before. (Hire me, I shall).
The problem covers all three government buildings in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem and in Haifa. In Haifa the windows were open and the fresh salted wind from the sea was rather enjoyable. In the Tel Aviv building, a sense of claustrophobia sized all of us, possibly because we had to pass through three successive security posts, and the lifts were small and looked menacing. The parking is in the lower floors and to get out we had to walk through narrow corridors and crowd in a miniature lift to the main lobby and there walk about 50 meters to take the other lift. The lower floors were really frightening (and I am used to be in closed spaces) and the air smelled of a latrine mixed with metallic odors that I could not identify. The foul air was transported to the lobby and dissipated there. My cloths smelled very badly after the meeting and had to change them at home.
Prima facie, it seems that the lower floors are not connected to air vents and the sanitary facilities are stinking. May be sewage pumping stations are there, unventilated. I wonder if the running water is filtered and sterilized against Legionella. I dont know if mould and fungus are also present in the system, most probably they are. The Migdaley HaKyriah Building in Tel Aviv seems to me a clear case of a sick building. I wrote in the Wiki (Hebrew):
עובדי הממשלה השוהים יום יום במגדלי הקירייה מתלוננים מהרגע הראשון על העובדה שלא ניתן לפוח את החלונות, וכן האוויר בלתי ניתן לנשימה. ריות ביוב וגזים רעילים הופכים את הקומות התחתונות ואת המרתפים למה שמוגדר בספרות המקצועית "מקום מוקף" מסוכן לבריואת האדם. מדובר, לכן, ה"בניין חולה" SICK BUILDING הדורש בדיקה מקצועית של מקור ריחות הביוב, האם מערכת איוור של הצנרת הסאניטארית עומדת בתיקני החל"ת (הוראות לתכנון) וכן את תקינות מערכת מיזוג. מערכת זו מותקנת על הגג ושואבת אוויר בגובה כאשר לא צריך להיות מומחה כדי לדעת ששכבות האטמוספירה מעל תל אביב מזוהמות (גם לאחר סילוק המזהם העיקרי - תחנת כוח "רידינג"). יש לבדוק גם נוכחות של פטריות ומושבות נסתרות של פיטריות הגורמות לאלרגיה ותופעות אוטו-אימוניות. לבסוף, יש לבדוק תקינות מערכת הספקת מי שתייה, כולל נוכחות של חיידק הלגיונלה.
I am very bad at asking for money and collecting my debts so I researched the best techniques:
Send an Invoice. For their convenience, you have included a self-addressed stamped envelope for their payment. Make it as easy as possible for them to pay.
Send Follow-ups. Clients may not respond to your first invoice letter. Most companies send several, with increasing urgency in tone.
Visit or Call. Either in place of or after written contact, a more personal approach is to contact the client in person. Place a phone call, tell them that you hate to inconvenience them but you are balancing your books and need to get all payments in. Or, if your debtor is a businessperson as well, go to their place of business and ask to speak with them. Once in private, casually ask if they ever sent payment.
Send a Third Party. One of the most common approaches, good cop/bad cop can work just as well in bill collecting as on Law & Order. If your other efforts have failed, try to have a third party (i.e. secretary, accounting department, assistant, co-worker, etc.) make contact.
Add New Charges to the Old Bill.
Assess Late Fees. It may seem a little counterintuitive to ask people who can't seem to pay their bills to pay even more. But mounting penalty charges can be a powerful incentive to pay off debt before more is incurred. Just be sure to tell all clients ahead of time that late fees may apply if they don't pay their bills on time.
Hire a Collection Agency. Professionals from doctors, retailers, and mail-order companies rely on them. Much like lawyers, collection agencies take a percentage of the amount owed once it has been collected. Before you wash your hands of debt collecting forever, be aware that agencies often use severe tactics such as obtaining court orders requiring forfeiture of the debtor's wages, and/or reporting the offendor to the credit bureau, which could affect the debtor's credit record for years.
Go to Small Claims Court. If you have only one or two minor accounts in default, you might not want to go through the hassle of dealing with a collection agency.
If you thought that Stalin era photography - where the images of the persons fallen into disgrace were erased - was a bizarre historical anomaly, look to the above pics published yesterday.
It was intended to be the photograph that settled the matter once and for all — three months after vanishing from public view, and after reports that he had undergone brain surgery following a stroke, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, was alive and well.
But a close look reveals something shady around the ankles of the world’s last Cold War dictator.
While the legs of his soldiers cast a shadow at a sharp angle, the shadow of the “Dear Leader” is dead straight. In addition, there is a black line running horizontally behind the soldiers’ legs, but it mysteriously disappears behind Mr Kim.
Fakery plus incompetence.
In Barack Obama's first press conference as United States president-elect, he declared his intention to foil Iran's pursuit of nuclear arms.
"Iran's development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable and we have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening."
Friday, November 07, 2008
There are two major differences between a Mikva and a Maayan. A Maayan is effective even though it is running water but a Mikva, must be stationary (or Ashboren in the language of Chazal, Mikvaot 1:7-8). Another difference is the amount of water that is necessary. A Mikva requires a minimum of forty Saah of rainwater and no such minimum exists for a Maayan (ibid).
Ritual purification in Judaism can be achieved in Zochlin (running water) and in Ashboren (standing pool) . Much care is taken to ensure that the Mikva water be stationary. Many Rishonim believe that in order to disqualify the Mikva, the water flow must be noticeable (Zechila Hanikeret). The Vilna Gaon (Biur Hagra 201:96) rules that even an indiscernible water flow (Zechila Sheeina Nikeret) disqualifies a Mikva. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe 3:63) also instructs that there should not be even a Zechila Sheeina Nikeret in the Mikva.
In summary, the water in the mikva must be perfectly still. Nothwithstanding this rule, draining the pool and filtering is allowed, because otherwise the people would not use the mikvah. It is difficult to design a modern, confortable, hygienic and safe mikvah that is also KOSHER. I shall try.
I knew that some day a mikweh (mikvah, a ritual bath) project will fall into my hands. And it did. An architect asked me to help him out with a mikweh he had designed, built and is in actual use by the faithfuls. His problem is that he had thought of the mikvah as a pure architectural object, not as a public swimming pool, with its myriad health and environmental permitting issues.
A mikvah (or mikveh) is a small pool used for ritual immersions. A proper mikvah contains a minimum of 40 SE'AH (about 87 gallons) of undrawn water (not filled by bucket or by metal pipes). In general, if there are more than 40 SE'AH, of undrawn water in the mikvah, then the remainder of the water may come from any source.
Natural lakes, whether or not fed by streams or rivers, qualify. However, these waters are often inaccessible or dangerous and have problems of inclement weather and lack of privacy. Jewish life therefore requires the construction of mikvaos, and this has been done throughout the ages, in every time and circumstance. Indoor mikvahs may be used only when they meet stringent halachic standards.
Now, the architect has to get the permit for it (he should have done it before starting to build, but this is Israel), and the Ministry of Health is demanding detailed information and drawings, including how the rainwater sterilization is being done (according to Jewish religion, the water has to come from rainfall or a living spring. This mikweh has a rainfall collecting pool on the roof, but no filtering or purification system. Then they ask how is the water in the pool renewed, how many times a week, what treatment is given to the water, how the water is heated, what is being done against Legionella, how the water is evacuated, where are the sanitary services and if there is no cross overs, where are the mazahim (back flow preventer valves), etc.
Our architect is in a shock, he had not thought about these issues. He begged me to reduce my fees, because he already had been paid and my work will come out of his pocket. He was clever, because together with this mikweh thing he brought me another job and promised to bring more. I am too soft (in other words, I am a complete idiot) and accepted a ludicrous estimate. He immediately gave me minuscule advance, so it will be difficult to change things now that I am starting to be aware of the amount of work involved.
Lysenko proposed that not all heredity was carried by genes but the life experience of an individual could cause inheritable features. This was in line with the Communist party doctrine, which maintained that man was mouldable and perfectible. His Weismannist opponents called him a pseudo-scientist, and never forgive him, but now we discover that not all is pre-determined by the genes one inherits. There important features not inherited through genes, such as cell structure and so on. From Dienekes Pontikos:
"... the contribution of epigenetics (e.g., DNA methylation, histone modifications and non-coding RNAs) to heritable variation in male fitness has received little attention from evolutionary theorists. Unlike DNA sequence based variation, epigenetic variation can be strongly influenced by environmental and stochastic effects experienced during the lifetime of an individual. Remarkably,in some cases, acquired epigenetic changes can be stably transmitted to offspring. A recent study indicates that sperm exhibit particularly high levels of epigenetic variation both within and between individuals."According to PC science, Lysenko's vernalized seeds caused the failure of Soviet agriculture and mass hunger, but the whole issue may have to be re-examined. Lysenko was head of legume selection at an experimental station in Azerbaijan, and he introduced pea varieties from Kiev that were early ripeners, but some became late ripeners in Azerbaijan. He concluded that this plant characteristic depends less on the breed than on the conditions under which it was grown. He decided that low temperature was related to late ripening and it was possible to produce desirable characteristics by manipulating the growing conditions. In order to make winter wheat sowable in the spring, he suggested that germinating seeds be buried in snow before planting; this reportedly led to greatly increased yields. Lysenko termed this procedure "vernalization". It seems that great ideas never die, but are reborn once and again under different names.
Anyway, the paradox of male unfertility which is not being weeded out by evolution is very interesting. It explains why human females are androgynous and they cheat on their husbands.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I finished teaching my course for professional engineers and administered them a written test. I am always surprised how different is the impression I have of the person in class, and how different is the written test I receive for evaluation and grading. The quiet people that always sat in the back, generally submits excellent papers, and this course was no exception. The most active ones, always interrupting with questions, produced written tests that showed that they understood very little of the subject matter.
One Russian Math Ph.D. (he refused to be photographed for the end of course picture) refused to write in Hebrew (he commented indignant "Me writing from right to left ? Ha!) and submitted his answers in a very poor English. Moreover, there was a question regarding the safe yield of a borehole, and he calculated the answer to the 10th. decimal point, which means that the pumping should be calibrated to the range of one cubic micrometer per year. I took off one point of this grade, because false precision is almost an error, and I dislike our Russian immigrant intellectuals´s snobbery towards the Hebrew language and Israeli culture. Another student inserted in his answer regarding the Shiqma River Aquifer Recharge Scheme, a cute reminder that he was born in Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the project area and that he had played as child in the sand dunes of the recharge basins. Very cute but the comment was totally out of place, and for me a test paper by a professional engineer must look like the formal engineering document that it is.
All in all, a good group of Israeli professionals, most of them already have found good jobs at the end of the course. I dont know if I mentioned, the course was for unemployed engineers, who could not find employment in their specialities and re-specialized in the flourishing water field. Most of the students were Russian immigrants, arriving with diplomas in textile engineering (all the textile industry here has moved to China), in mine engineering (we have no mines), and the excentric Ph.D. in Math, who wanted to make a change in his life and contribute to this country in a more vital field. Another student was a petite, plain i.e. ugly, black-skinned girl, very quiet, who was, in my opinion, the best student of the class, with no posturing at all but submitting very precise and well organized papers and presentations. So much for my color prejudices: God or fate seems purposefully put me in touch with colored people who are good and deserving.