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Quick Look at Manufacturing Jobs May 8, 2022

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Manufacturing jobs continue to improve, but still haven’t quite reached pre-COVID levels:

One wonders what would happened had the Democrats not taken control of Congress in January 2019.

The Miracle of Renewable Energy May 7, 2022

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Shot (5/2/22):

California runs on 100% clean energy for the first time, with solar dominating

Chaser (5/6/22):

California says it needs more power to keep the lights on

Employment Has Flatlined May 6, 2022

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The BLS published the Employment Situation Report today, so I thought I’d brush off the old employment graph and update it somewhat. By “somewhat” I mean that I only updated it back to January 2020. The BLS updates numbers going back a decade, so my pre-2020 number are a little old.

Anyway, as you may recall, my curve is an attempt to gauge the health of employment by tracking the number of full-time jobs. To do that, I take the employment numbers from the Household survey and subtract the part-time jobs. Then I divide by the population (the civilian non-institutional population, to be exact).

Here’s what that looks like going back to 1990:

And here’s a closeup of more recent years:

As of January of this year, the % of full-time jobs stopped increasing. Sadly, the increase halted just before it got to pre-COVID levels. Even more sadly, we’re nowhere near 0.52, which was kind of our average before the Great Recession.

Can’t blame the 4-month lull on COVID anymore, and you can’t blame it on Russia. Blame of the administration, however, is not so easily dismissed.

Auditory Accomplishment or Hearing Herring? May 5, 2022

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From the Cool Medical News file: looks like they’re starting to make headway in dealing with elderly hearing loss:

Hearing loss caused by aging, noise, and some cancer therapy medications and antibiotics has been irreversible because scientists have not been able to reprogram existing cells to develop into the outer and inner ear sensory cells — essential for hearing — once they die.

But Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a single master gene that programs ear hair cells into either outer or inner ones, overcoming a major hurdle that had previously prevented the development of these cells to restore hearing…

If that wasn’t clear, allow me to sum up. Hearing loss associated with aging is generally due to death or damage to outer ear cells. Now they’ve figured out how to turn cells into outer ear cells. So hopefully that will allow them to replace lost cells as people age, so we can dispense with our ear trumpets.

That won’t just help the elderly with their hearing – when I talked with an Alzheimer’s researcher at UCSF six years ago, she said that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline. Certainly hearing issues also lead to social isolation with all its attendant effects.

So if they can actually get this into clinical practice without taking three or four decades, it’s pretty exciting. If.

Signs of Life at DoublePlusUndead May 5, 2022

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Looks like the Russian invasion got aliceaitch fired up over at DPUD. She’s been posting pretty regularly since February. They also had a couple of posts in January by veeshir and socklessjoe.

If this continues I’ll have to resurrect them from the “Dormant” category in the sidebar.

Sad Milestone* May 4, 2022

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Saddened today to learn that I very recently passed Michael (the founder of this blog) in the number of posts published (almost 1900). Part of me wanted to stop just short so that he would always be the lead contributor here, but I wasn’t paying attention, so here we are.

It’s been over 7 years since he passed, and 12 since I started blogging here, but I still feel like the new guy. The token nerd/charts guy amid the hilarious crew of authors we once had. Unfortunately, charts are pretty much all you get these days, and those sparingly.

Ah well. Just a bit of melancholy before I get about my business. Guess I’ll keep plugging away with the charts ‘n such, hopefully with more frequency.

And as always, if any of the other authors have any spare time, it would be awesome if you could dilute my posts.

*Or millstone, amirite?

Ukrainian Folk Rap from Eurovision 2022 May 3, 2022

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The annual Eurovision contest is happening now, with the Grand Final a week and a half away. In the interest of meeting my state-mandated support quota for Ukraine*, I figured I’d best post the Ukraine entry for this years’ competition (Russia was disinvited from the contest):

Honestly though, I think this entry would have provided a better rationale for Putin’s invasion than the silly “Nazis next door” hokum.

I’ll try to remember to post the winner’s video in 11 days.

(more…)

Garish Gala Goofs May 3, 2022

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Apparently the Met Gala (don’t even know what that is) happened, and it involved quite the celebrity fashion show. Where by “fashion show” I mean “absolutely ridiculous celebrity preening in garish outfits.”

I thought this would be my #1 example of the silliness:

Until I saw this:

If those spines were 3′ long, I’m sure Fauci would have us all wearing them so we’d have our (completely unsupported by science) 6′ social distancing.

[Both pics were screencaptured from the Daily Mail article, which has many, many, many more stomach-turning examples of celebrities making terrible sartorial decisions.]

Real Estate Industry Should Assume Its Crash Position May 2, 2022

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A couple of months ago we had a post on the prospects for a real estate market crash. Just looking at the interest rate situation, it’s looking like the brakes are going to be applied pretty hard:

Freddie Mac, 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Average in the United States [MORTGAGE30US], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MORTGAGE30US, May 2, 2022.

Just as a for-instance, the principal/interest on a $450K house would have cost you around$1520 (@3% interest) during Biden’s first year. Now it’ll cost you $1940.

That’s a 28% bump that has to put a lot of properties out of people’s reaches. Especially when the price of everything else has gone up as well.

Real estate’s only hope is that investors abandon the stock market as an inflation hedge and put their money in more tangible assets. But real estate is not very liquid, and will be even less liquid with a dearth of buyers. And when everybody’s underwater, what then?

To us reg’lar type peoples, it’s time to get your housing situation nice and stable, and then hunker down until this passes over. [But as noted in my previous post, my track record on real estate advice is abysmal, so take my advice with plenty ‘o caution.]

Our Worrisome GDP April 28, 2022

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The sad GDP numbers came out today, with a 1.4% drop from last quarter (on an annual basis). I don’t like that way of reporting things, because it gives you a meaningless snapshot of the GDP. I prefer looking at this:

[This is a screencap of the inflation-adjusted GDP from the Saint Louis Fed]

You can see the steady growth since the last recession, with an uptick in growth when Trump was elected. Then came COVID-19, with the economy rebounding after Q2 2020. But the rebound slows down quite a bit after Q2 2021. Must be Russia.

Obviously next quarter will be critical – if the GDP shrinks again, there will be grounds for saying our economy’s in recession.

When Life Imitates Art April 18, 2022

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Here’s Life:

Want abs like Kelly Gale? Victoria’s Secret model reveals how to get a washboard stomach with a simple eight minute workout

And here’s Art:

Hopefully Bidding a Final Farewell to COVID-19 April 17, 2022

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Time to get back to posting, and what better way than to do a quick update on COVID-19. You remember COVID-19. It dominated our lives for two years until everybody said, “Enough!”

And now it’s gone (chart from CDC website):

As you can see, and as was pointed out ad nauseum by us (conservatives et al.) at the time, the under-50 set was never at any significant risk of death from COVID. So Fauci’s limited imagination concerning appropriate health responses caused an enormous amount of damage to the country and its people . . . with little benefit.

Next stop on the COVID train is vaccinations: how many people opted for the booster shot? Personally, I did the first two shots and bailed when it was apparent that they were going to recommend boosters every 4 – 6 months for eternity. Seems like a lot of other people felt like I did (graph is from the CDC):

Pfizer and Moderna must be gnashing their teeth watching their profit streams wither away.

The CDC used to make it really easy to compare data for up to 6 states, but they removed that feature recently. Gotta believe that they decided it was casting a bad light on the blue states, and had to be suppressed.

Finally, here’s another way to decide how well masks and social distancing work. If you compare urban and rural cases, you can get a rough idea of how sensitive COVID transmission is to population density, which provides the same sort of effect as masks & social distancing. As you can see below (graph from the CDC), the answer is, “Not very.” As many countries have found, you can delay it, but you’re going to get it eventually.