One of the strange things about yesterday's snowstorm was how much difference there was from county to neighboring county. If you were in Mason City, you probably didn't get any snow at all. But according to the National Weather Service, Decorah got almost a foot of snow just a hundred miles or so to the east. What a strange storm...and it followed Friday's awful fog. It's been an especially wintery winter.
If you get a new computer for Christmas (or if you just want to save some money on new programs), you might enjoy my list of free open-source computer programs, including a nice word processor and office suite, a terrific graphics-creation program, and a desktop-publishing program I discovered this past week. And, of course, the Firefox web browser. All of the programs are free and developed by people who are working to make user-friendly programs that do the things users want most. Firefox, by the way, is soon to be updated to version 3.
Why is it that snowblowers seem to come in only two sizes anymore: Micro and Colossal? Some of these new snowblowers toss the stuff so far you're at risk of covering not only your neighbor's yard, but her neighbor's yard as well. And the engines on some of these things are bigger than Volkswagens.
It looks like Earthpark probably won't get the $50 million grant it expected from the US Department of Energy. Here's the thing about Earthpark: It sounds like a great idea -- perhaps a little over-ambitious, but certainly a plan with a lot of potential. But the thought that it would depend upon $50 million from the Federal government at a time when we're already spending so much more than we can afford has been unsettling. It sounds like a great idea, and it sounds like one that could turn a profit...so why shouldn't we expect Earthpark to cut it in the private sector?
This past week was not an especially good one for our future: At the same time as a flood of complaints crashed China's brand-new anti-corruption website, Morgan Stanley was turning to the Chinese government to get $5 billion to keep the bank from going belly-up. Many of our financial institutions are becoming beholden to a Communist government, and that is a frightening prospect if there ever was one. Morgan Stanley only needed the dollars because they expect to lose about $9.4 billion on subprime loans -- that's almost exactly the same amount (according to my Money Scale) as it was expected to cost to replace all of the levees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the $5 billion loss would pretty well run the entire City of Chicago for a year.