Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cab Thoughts 2/9/13

"There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen........Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil."
- From an essay by Frédéric Bastiat in 1850, "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen

Hydrogen cells, the new, NEW answer! The California Air Resources Board just approved new regulations designed to put 500,000 zero-emission cars on the road by 2025. More than 160,000 of those vehicles would be hydrogen fuel-cell cars in one scenario. The regulations also require oil companies to build hydrogen refueling stations.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that two of America's Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, are at their lowest water levels since recording began in 1918. The lakes were 29 inches below their long-term average, and down 17 inches since this time last year. One of the factors is said to be dredging, so the volume of water may be less changed.

When looking at cars sold, the "cars sold" number is what the manufacturers are reporting that dealers purchased from the manufacturer.

We taste only four flavors: sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. That means that everything else we call 'flavor' is really 'odor.' And many of the foods we think we can smell we can only taste. Sugar isn't volatile, so we don't smell it, even though we taste it intensely. Because there is no gravity in space, there are no smells. Food tastes terrible in space. Wine is tasteless without good sense of smell.

"Er Ist Wieder Da (He's Back)" has sold more than 400,000 copies since its release, keeping it at the top of the Spiegel's bestseller chart since mid December. It is a first person novel with Hitler waking up in 2011 in Germany. It is said to be a satire.

Sixteen-year-old George Washington wrote a pamphlet, Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation; A Book of Etiquette. To have such a man do such a thing must mean something.

Who is....... Lucy Rimirez?

Annual health care costs are roughly $96 billion for smokers and $147 billion for the obese. Wait 'til a militant government accountant sees that. They have. A provision in the Affordable Care Act that is starting next year allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums. A 60-year-old smoker could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.

Stratford did a quick summary of Central Asia. This is an excerpt: "Central Asia, with the exception of Tajikistan, is Turkic. But by further breaking the region up into ethnicities -- Uzbek, Kazakh, Turkmen, Kyrgyz -- and creating official republics, even as they made sure the clan system everywhere remained intact, the Soviets ensured that pan-Turkism would have a hard time rearing up. The result, given Stalin's artificial borders, are states that are mutually suspicious of each other and that are partial misnomers themselves."

All smells fall into a few basic categories, almost like primary colors: minty (peppermint), floral (roses), ethereal (pears), musky (musk), resinous (camphor), foul (rotten eggs), and acrid (vinegar). This is why perfume manufacturers have had such success in concocting floral bouquets or just the right threshold of muskiness or fruitiness. Natural substances are no longer required; perfumes can be made on the molecular level in laboratories. One of the first perfumes based on a completely synthetic smell (an aldehyde) was Chanel No. 5. Because animal musk is so close to human testosterone, we can smell it in portions of as little as 0.000000000000032 of an ounce.

A fascinating paragraph from Technology Review on GE's efforts to sell wind turbines: "GE’s new wind turbine comes with battery backup. New algorithms, paired with weather-prediction software, determine when to store power in the battery and when to send it to the grid. As a result, wind farm operators can guarantee power output—but for just 15 minutes at a time. If wind power is ever to provide a large share of the total electricity supply, it may be necessary to have hours of storage—or else grid operators will have to maintain backup sources of power, such as natural-gas power plants." This cost effectiveness is crucial and rarely mentioned. The calculations always exclude the cost of building, maintaining and operating the back-up assets required for times when the wind isn't blowing.

Pennsylvania is going to raise gas taxes over the next five years from 19.2 cents per gallon, to 47.7 cents per gallon. That's a 150% increase over the span of the next five years.

While worried about debt and government management, there are some bright spots according to Roubini Global Economics. From a balance-sheet perspective, the U.S. household sector is coming to the end of its period of deleveraging that began in 2008. Wealth has been rebuilt (Figures 4 and 5), debt has been cut through defaults and repayment, and incomes have recovered (Figure 14 shows the detailed decomposition of this process). As long as interest rates remain low, and deflation is avoided, a more normal period may soon begin, although debt levels in some sectors remain high, mainly student loans which are greater than auto loans and credit card debt combined.

In March of 2004, terrorists bombed four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wound­ing approximately eighteen hundred. Spanish police soon found a partial fingerprint on a plastic bag in a car containing materials from the attack. Using a digital copy of the fingerprint sent by the Spanish police, a senior FBI fingerprint examiner made 'a 100% identification' of Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon attorney, whose prints appeared in government databases because of his military service and an arrest years earlier. Mayfield was clearly not involved but the FBI would not give up until the Spanish police caught an Algerian with an identical print match. The FBI did not follow "blind procedure" to identify Mayfield but instead showed the prints around with him already identified as the bomber. Confirmation bias as institutional technique. Incidentally, the Bureau has not changed their policy.

Tiny Cyprus, whose banking system is bankrupt, has banks that are four times larger than the country, financially. There is considerable political turmoil in Cyprus, with elections due in two weeks (February 17). While the cash problem amounts to only about 10 billion euros, the procedural problem is challenging. When you deal with Cyprus, you will be establishing a precedent for dealing with the rest of Europe, where private liabilities are greater than the public wealth.

In 1974 Thomas Nagel published “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” a short essay arguing that the subjective experience of consciousness — what philosophers call the “qualia” — could not be fully reduced to the physical aspects of the brain. That essay framed a landmark challenge to the materialist view of the mind that was then prevailing and helped cement Mr. Nagel’s reputation. He has a new book, "Mind and Cosmos," argueing that consciousness, meaning and moral value aren’t just incidental features of life on earth, but fundamental aspects of the universe. Instead of random evolution Mr. Nagel sees the unfolding of a “cosmic predisposition.” (Nagel is, amazingly, an atheist.) This has stimulated the traditional emotional outrage that seems to characterize the usually scientific community and has energized the equally nonobjective "Intelligent Design" community.

Jared Diamond in his new book, The World Until Yesterday, writes about children being raised by non-biological parents, now called "allo parents." These anthropologist-sociologists went to small cultures and found a thriving deferral of parental responsibility through out the community. "It takes a village." As this is a modern trend, this notion of the responsibility of the group seems to be a hoped for ideal looking for a place of expression. This is presented as a way of escaping the limits of the individual parent, of improving survival chances by increasing socialization. The Celts did this, handing children down family lines laterally to aunts and uncles. I never though it was done because anyone thought it was a good idea, I always thought it was forced upon the culture because of the high mortality rate of the parents.

According to biologists, cats are off killing other animals — billions of them a year. Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that each year cats are preying on billions of birds and small mammals like indigenous chipmunks, shrews, and meadow voles. There are estimated to be 30 million to 80 million free-roaming, feral cats living in the United States. They either survive alone or live in colonies. In Washington, D.C., for example, there are estimated to be some 300 outdoor cat colonies. There is actually a small and so far discredited movement in New Zealand to limit cats to protect the declining bird population. The government will soon be coming for your kitty!

Aaaaannnnnddddd a weird picture:

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