Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Savings Rate Higher but Still Has Some Way to Go

The annual savings rate in the United States in 2009 was almost two percentage points higher than in 2008, climbing to a 17-year high of 5.9 percent. However, this level of savings was more than 20% lower than the 1929 to 2009 average of 7.5 percent, and ranked 52nd during the 80-year period.

An analysis of the moving averages during the period provides evidence that we may have reached a turning point; a moving average crossover occurred for the first time in about 30 years. That is, the 4-year moving average was higher than the 10-year moving average rate. This suggests that the personal savings rate may start trending higher. What remains to be seen is if it will persist as long as did in the 1960s.

Data courtesy of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Economic Accounts

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WR-3 Receiver - Initial Impressions

Recently I received a radio built by Stephen McGreevy, N6NKS. The WR-3 is a hand-held VLF receiver designed for especially for listening to naturally-occurring extremely low frequency (ELF) and very low frequency (VLF) radio phenomena, like lightning storm atmospherics. The WR-3 converts 0.2-11 kHz radio frequencies directly to audio signals, which can be monitored and recorded directly from a portable hand-held unit powered with a 9-volt battery. Using this and similar models, Stephen produced five natural VLF radio MP3 Albums, including, "Electric Enigma" and "Aurora Chorus". For an example listen here.

As Steve notes, "Everyone has seen or has at least heard of the hauntingly beautiful Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights but only a select and elite few have experienced their spectacular, compelling and beautiful sound". Steve has for the first time in history, captured and recorded "the sounds of the Aurora Borealis and the EMF discharges of lightning bolts bouncing and stretching through the earth's magnetosphere."

Yesterday afternoon I drove out to a place called Little Mountain on the Natchez Trace Parkway at Jeff Busby Campground in Mississippi, turned off my car, plugged in some iPhone earbuds and then the W3R. Initially the earbuds literally buzzed in my hand after I turned on the receiver; I'm glad I did not have them in my ears, but I had read about this and knew to be careful.

After adequately grounding the radio (or was it just hand capacitance?) the earbuds stopped chattering in my hand and I carefully put them in my ears. First I heard a slight bit of power-line hum and lots of noisy interference, which I attributed to some large machinery a few miles away. The North American Coal Corporation’s Red Hills Mine is just a few miles away, in Ackerman, MS.

I moved the radio to the other side of parking lot at the top of Little Mountain and things settled down nicely. I then could hear some actual sferics, but they were quite distant I'm sure - the weather in the southeast is now very calm so I figured it was from some thunderstorms in the Midwest. I never heard any whistlers or anything quite so dramatic as what McGreevy has recorded, but I did hear insects flying near the antenna. McGreevy notes that, "this effect is caused by electrostatic discharges each time the insect's wings flap".

Later I moved to another location on the Natchez Trace, and tried again. This time there was quite a bit of power line hum; I was sitting in my car with the antenna propped on the plastic side-view mirror enclosure and the radio resting on my left bare leg. After I placed my hand on the side of the car outside the hum disappeared entirely. Ahh...properly grounded, I think. Then faintly I hear what sounds like an alarm clock beep beep beeping just above the noise floor. I'm not sure what it was, but I timed and counted and came up with between 220 and 240 beats/beeps per minute. After about 10 minutes it abruptly stopped. I heard more insects too, and more distant lightning sferics.

I'm looking forward to spending more time with this radio and learning more about natural ELF and VLF emissions. It suits me well, as I enjoy spending time outdoors and in remote places.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fun with Google Instant

Google Instant is Google’s newest search engine; just start typing in search terms and Google will display real-time suggestions and even the page results.

For example, typing in, "lollipops are " results in lollipops are illegal in Washington; typing in, "science is " displays Science is real, while religion is the opiate of the masses -
I suppose Karl Marx would be proud, even if perhaps out of context.

As a followup to science and religion (note however I don't give much credence to the warfare hypothesis), I entered some selected topical subjects about politics, and found that:

sarah palin has breast implants, and...

breast implants are gross.

Well that's plain, and droll, enough - how about we start with the president:

Obama will not rest, yet...

the GOP looks west, and...

the West is the best, which is...

the best thing I ever ate.

Actually the best thing I ever ate was mother's home made lasagne, and my grandmother's vanilla ice cream...still, you can have some fun with Google Instant, even if it still has some way to go.

Where's My Hat

Housekeeping on my's a trivial little fragment I wrote a few years ago. I was playing around with a symmetrical rhyme scheme using couplets and never finished it:

I have a funny hat.
I'm not sure where it's at.
Perhaps it on the kitchen table.
But this may be a feeble fable.
Perhaps it's on my own portmanteau.
Or out on loan to my friend, Thoreau,
Who makes a stir with his own chapeau,
Covered in mink and azure sable,
Worn in town or at the stable.