Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cab Thoughts 4/6/13

"Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be' – she always called me Elwood – 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."--Elwood P. Dowd

American CO2 production was down 3.8% in 2012. Coal emissions were down 12%. The UK's emissions of climate-warming gases surged 4.5% in 2012, as cheap coal replaced gas in power stations. Natural gas costs 2 to 3 times more in the UK than the US. A major reason for the higher gas price in the UK is that it, until recently, had a moratorium on shale gas production. Now that the UK has lifted its shale gas moratorium, shale gas production could begin there within 5 years.

Cyprus is winding down. What saved Iceland from mass unemployment after its banks blew up – or saved Sweden and Finland in the early 1990s – was a currency devaluation that brought industries back from the dead. But Cyprus has no real industry; its major industry is banking and that is now destroyed. And would anyone in their right mind vacation there?

Back in 1999, when both oil and natural gas prices were collapsed, 30 students were enrolled in Penn State University's petroleum and natural gas engineering program. Now, the number is 500. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that there are just 17 universities offering majors in petroleum engineering.

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany and has been so since 1918. During Hitler, schools were used as a political extension. The German Supreme Court stated the reason for the opposition to homeschooling is to "counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies." That is a quote of a major western nation's highest court's opinion on the nature of the state and its relationship to its society and it deserves some serious thought.

Couchsurfing is a term describing travelers staying informally with friends or families in any spare space available. It became an international concept in 1999, when Casey Fenton managed to plan a whole trip to Iceland though randomly generated volunteers. A web site was created and began receiving applications for both guests and hosts. Some efforts at compatibility were made but no payment was permitted. (Some trade, a gift, a skill..something...was allowed but arranged and not required.) As of October 2011, CouchSurfing had over 3 million active and inactive members.
It has had problems. In 2006 the computer system crashed and the entire data base was lost. In 2009 a Leeds U.K. host raped his Asian guest.
In August 2011, Couchsurfing announced its change of status to a for-profit corporation. A $7.6 million dollar investment was raised by Benchmark Capital with $15 million coming on two follow up rounds. This for-profit decision was met with resistance by many members who, like ancient Christian zealots, preferred purity to survival (profit being impure).

Who is.....Ken Alibek?

The Amur (Siberian) tiger is the largest of all the world's cats. Unlike its jungle cousins it sacrifices sleekness for its thick coat against the cold. The thickly maned head can be as broad as a man's chest and shoulders, and winter paw prints are described using hats and pot lids for comparison. As the encyclope­dic reference Mammals of the Soviet Union puts it, 'The general appearance of the tiger is that of a huge physical force and quiet confidence, combined with a rather heavy grace.' Or as John Vaillent says: "this is what you get when you pair the agility and appetites of a cat with the mass of an industrial refrigerator." It is a prodigious hunter and killer but does not hunt man. Except for revenge.

PEW Research in 2012 found that 33% of 18 to 24 year olds had read a book.

This is the anniversary of the major outbreak of pulmonary anthrax in the city of Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) caused the deaths of 105 or more Soviet citizens in the 1970's. It was for years denied by the Russian government but eventually came to light after several high level defections--when it was clear the economic ship was sinking. The spores leaked from a bioweapons facility, a part of the Russian Biopreparate system, which they had interestingly constructed on the model of the Japanese bioweapons system. So these maniacal homicidal systems give birth to one another.

A 2003 study on organ donation: In Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom, where citizens had to make an active choice to donate organs, only 4% to 17% consented to do so. In nearby Austria, France and Poland, where citizens were automatically "defaulted in" as donors unless they explicitly opted out, more than 99% agreed to donate.

The head of Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Cosgrove, is dyslectic. He says he relied on memorizing texts in medical school, and reading hasn't gotten easier for him. He says he has never read a novel. But, he says, "I frankly think dyslexia is a gift. If you are supported in school and your ego remains intact, then you emerge with a strong work ethic and a different view of the world." Read that again.

A book signed by Richard lll is on display, part of the new exhibition "The Kings Body: Richard III King of England 1483 - 1485" at Longleat House in Wiltshire. The book, written on vellum, includes stories by Chaucer as well as other popular writers of the 15th century. It is one of only thirteen surviving books from Richard III's library. Above his signature, in neat and educated handwriting, is a French line: "Tant le desieree," which translates to "So much desired." Richard signed the book as "R Gloucester," as he was still a teenager when the book was given to him and his only title was Duke of Gloucester. The book was purchased by Thomas Thynne, the First Viscount Weymouth, as part of a collection of medieval manuscripts in 1709. It has been housed at Longleat House ever since, still in the care of the Thynne family. The exhibition at Longleat also includes a First Folio from 1623.

The MoMA has a director of Research and Development, Paola Antonelli. This is her answer to the question "Why does MoMA have an R&D department?" " belief that museums can act as the laboratories and R&D centers of society—a belief that came from the financial crisis of 2008, when some so-called "productive" sectors of our social system showed their true colors and almost drowned us all. Because museums and similar institutions have often proved their social and educational commitment, they can count on bright and creative minds—artists, thinkers, critics, curators, and audience —to come together and work on important projects. And they can have real, positive influence. To do that, we need to make an effort to keep up with emerging technologies, explore new business models, and continue to experiment with ways of engaging with the public and with culture."
So capitalism will be saved by non-profits?

Golden Oldie:

3.2% of natural gas is used for transportation worldwide, but only 0.2% of America's gas is consumed to power vehicles.

A buzz on the technical sites over an Edmunds' story that Tesla was developing a race car for NASCAR underwritten by the government: "Under the supervision of Tesla's in-house engineering team, Lidocad-daleoxide battery technology is being developed specifically for the race cars at a Czechoslovakian research facility, Blázen Dubna, Ltd."
"Blázen Dubna" is Chech for "April Fool."

The Bank of Japan released the world's most intense burst of monetary stimulus on Thursday, promising to inject about $1.4 trillion into the economy. New Governor Haruhiko Kuroda committed the BOJ to open-ended asset buying and said the monetary base would nearly double (!!!) to 270 trillion yen ($2.9 trillion) by the end of 2014 in a shock therapy to end two decades of stagnation in less than two years, a radical gamble that sent the yen reeling and bond yields to record lows.  Kuroda said the BOJ wanted to push down bond yields enough so that investors will start buying riskier assets, such as property and stocks, and to prompt households and companies to spend now rather than later on expectations of rising prices. "I don't see a risk of a sudden spike in long-term interest rates or a creation of an asset price bubble," Kuroda said.
Another nation manipulates its currency to create artificial value elsewhere.

The middle-income housing projects Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village sit on an 80-acre patch of Lower Manhattan. In 2006 Tishman Speyer and BlackRock bought it at auction, the biggest real estate deal ever. The whole idea behind the deal was that Tishman Speyer and BlackRock could get tenants in rent-regulated units out, and tenants who were willing to pay market rents in. But the tenants association went to court and blocked them.So they just walked away. It was easy to do because it wasn't their money on the line.
Charles Bagli covered the purchase for The New York Times. In his new book, Other People's Money, he tells what happened."They pretty much went through it unscathed," Bagli says, "but CalPERS [the California Public Employees' Retirement System], the largest pension fund in the country, lost $500 million. Poof — gone. ... Another pension fund down in Florida lost $250 million. The government of Singapore, well, they lost the most — over $600 million. It all just went poof."
Whether private enterprise  or government, it is always the same when it is someone else's money.

AAAaaaannnnnddd.....a Picture:


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