Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So, like, when does the end begin?

40 years ago, more or less I started to realize that we were nearing the limit.

40 years later, we're getting closer.

One of the things science can do without thinking too much is accumulate data. Data mounts up into maps, and we get a clearer picture of where the "You are Here" arrow is pointing, and what's around it.

Basic, right? You don't need me to tell you that between energy tightness, climate change, global competition, and rising stupidity, the walls are closing in.

What you do need is a reminder that in 8 months, when we're having an election, a lot of things will be much different. A lot will be the same.

Sorry, I have no idea which will be which. Well, one thing...

If this is still here, knock the battery off my shoulder & tell me I'm wrong.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The crazies they are warming (Now with added water)

In 2030, the global warming denialists will take a victory cruise to the North Pole to discuss Global Cooling. So the only proper approach to them is to point and laugh, and attempt to gently steer away any sane person who seems to be falling for their drivel.

And yet, there are things more ridiculous than Denialists in action. Of course, I'm talking about Megan McArdle:*

The first reason I don't post a lot is that I'm not an expert, and I'm not planning to become one. I've basically outsourced my opinion on the science to people like Jonathan Adler, Ron Bailey, and Pat Michaels of Cato--all of whom concede that anthropogenic global warming is real, though they may contest the likely extent, or desired remedies.

You gotta be shitting me! First off - not an expert? When has that ever stopped her?!
Second - Cato!

This is not the time nor the place. I'd go with someone with relevant expertise:

In any event, you can skip most of the article, as it's the usual mess of concern trolling, name dropping, and Nobody Can Know Anything, Nothing Will Work. She did make one slip -

I don't know what the speed limit should be, how we should redesign the military to counter 21st century threats, or the best way to allocate scarce water resources between competing claims, even though I recognize that in a modern society, these are all the proper concerns of the government;

Which led to her minions pouncing in the very first comment:

tjic 15 hours ago
I don't know what the speed limit should be, how we should redesign the military to counter 21st century threats, or the best way to allocate scarce water resources between competing claims, even though I recognize that in a modern society, these are all the proper concerns of the government
I've been reading your work for so long that I remember back when you used to be a libertarian!

& Megan gives the entire game away!

McMegan 15 hours ago in reply to tjic
I know enough about water rights to know that there is no "libertarian" solution.

That's right. For all the important stuff that our lives depend on, her all purpose hammer is useless.

Ah well. At least Sandra Dee will always have a beach,

even though it may be covered in dead jellyfish.

*Warning! Do not read the comments! Brain death imminent! Treat at RealClimate if accidentally exposed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Simple Story

One way to know if we have a funcitional media is whether a simple, important story has been told accurately. One of the simplest, and most important, is the oil industry since 2006.

The basic fact is that 5 years ago the US imported 12 million barrels a day of oil & oil products. Since then, we've cut consumption by 2.5 million barrels a day, increased oil taken from the ground by .5, and added in another million barrels a day of other liquid fuels to reduce net impors to 8 million barrels a day. Simple, successful, & never reported.

Instead we get 3 contradictory and ridiculous versions:

1) Obama has prevented the US from exploiting our abundant resources.

Rubbish, we have actually increased prodution & are drilling like crazy.

2) We have achieved energy independence!

Rubbish, we still import 8 million barrels a day.

3) Technology will solve all our energy problems.

This is a wish, not something that any sane person should write.

Thanks to higher gas prices, and maybe a bit to cash to clunkers, miles driven are down slightly and fleet MPG has finally risen;

After all this, why don't we have cheap oil? Well, actually we do. WTI, the most quoted US oil price, is about $15 below the world market price.

Even Barbie has downsized.

But all we get is noise. The more important story, is that we have to do it again in the next 5 years.

The first time took $3 gasoline & a minor depression. What will the next take?

We are so screwed.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Blood, Beasts & Breasts

With almost all the drive-ins closed, Joe Bob Briggs is still busy. Way back, when I used to read his reviews in some long-forgotten free newspaper, he was very concerned with his credibility. If he said "Heads will roll" then you could be sure that there would be a head, unattached to a body, rolling across the screen.

Joe Bob Briggs is a pseudonym, and the reviews are comedy, but he insists on maintaining a level of credibility, despite some blowback regarding his Basket Case endorsements.

Pause for random Kate Beckinsale breast picture.

At a much lower level, propagandists try to hang onto some shreds of credibility.

Megan McArdle spent most of last week in unaccustomed labor. She was out to prove that the summary document of the Heartland policy was a fake. What she meant by fake was never really clear - it mostly seems to be proving that it was a summary or draft, not something contrary to their general plans. Her explanation was:

I should also probably note that I disagree pretty strenuously with Heartland's position on global warming. I not only believe that anthropogenic global warming is happening, but also support stiff carbon or source fuels taxes in order to combat it. While I've expressed some dismay at the behavior revealed in the leaked Climategate memos, they haven't changed my mind about the reality, or the danger, of global warming. I'm not defending Heartland's stance on climate science; I'm mostly interested in this because I have a longstanding fascination with fake quotes and documents.

Is there away to judge intent? Consider the law of Domicile. A lot depends on establishing intent to make your new home your permanent home. "Intent" sounds quite subjective, but can be inferred from actions. Do you establish new ties, move your goods, sell the old house? Or do you have a small apartment you don't use much and spend most of your time hanging with the old gang & looking for a job back home? Home is where the heart is, unless the heart is removed from the body & rolling down the sidewalk in a drive-in movie.

So Megan believes in Global Warming, but does she care about it? (That she is an undying warrior for accuracy is too farcical to consider) There is no evidence. We have a fairly good idea what her priorities are: Maintaining her image, keeping the peasants down, new drugs, protecting banks and drug companies. By a strange coincidence, keeping the peasants down & protecting drug companies are the main tasks of the Heartland Foundation.

Which brings us to the black hole of credibility : Willard "My first name is Mitt" Romney. There is simply nothing to found him on. When he produces an emission like:
“This week, President Obama will release a budget that won’t take any meaningful steps toward solving our entitlement crisis,” Romney said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. “The president has failed to offer a single serious idea to save Social Security and is the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors. I believe we can save Social Security and Medicare with a few common-sense reforms, and – unlike President Obama – I’m not afraid to put them on the table.”

you can only marvel. He attacks Obama for benefit cuts that were actually expense cuts. Then he attacks him for not cutting expenses. Then he mixes up Social Security with Medicare, fearmongers a well funded program, and lies about his own proposal. What would we get if we elect him? A rapacious plutocracy? Mormon dystopia? Nuclear war? All we can be sure of is that we'd get a liar. Credibility level:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Nozick v Miller

I spent a lot of time over the years reading philosophy. In summation:

Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it. Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself." And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.

One of the philosophers who was playing Otto from the inside was a dimwitted chap named Robert Nozick. He made up a thought experiment about people paying an extra 25 cents to watch Wilt Chamberlain that would let old Wilt collect an extra $250 grand for a season of basketball.

This was published in 1974. It was the quite possibly the single stupidest thing ever written about sports economics, and the timing was impeccably bad. While Nozick was painting by numbers, Marvin Miller was completing the last supper.

As best I can tell, Nozick never looked at what collective bargaining found under the rocks and said "OMG! I had no fucking clue!"

Worse yet, his book was a big hit, and none of the major criticisms were centered around his stick figure view of a chiarusco world.

It gives one pause.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bible is Wack

(Graph showing 8822 senior managers vs 8669 faculty at University of California)

That our universities are being brought down by the cancer of administration is not really surprising. It's an ancient disease, as old as the pyramids. As usual, there's an ancient solution. Who's more ancient to explain it than Aunt Esther?

When Aunt Esther was much younger, she was married to a king named Ahasue'rus. He had a rather large administration, run by a chap named Haman.

So when this Haman was abusing all sorts of things

It got personal for Esther. So Esther garbed herself in her finery, knuckled down, rocked out

Which sure put Kate Beckinsale's skinny ass to shame

and persuaded Ahasue'rus to let her folks unleash the dogs of war on Haman & all his followers.

So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mor'decai. Then was the king's wrath pacified. But not Esther's. Esther has no truck with heathens.

Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.

6 And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.

7 And Parshanda'tha, and Dalphon, and Aspa'tha,

8 and Pora'tha, and Adali'a, and Arida'tha,

9 and Parmash'ta, and Ar'isai, and Ar'idai, and Vajeza'tha,

10 the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammeda'tha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand.

11 ¶ On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king.

12 And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king's provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done.

13 Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do tomorrow also according unto this day's decree, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.

14 And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman's ten sons.

15 For the Jews that were in Shushan gathered themselves together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred men at Shushan; but on the prey they laid not their hand.

Well, you get the picture.

Hence the moral : Once you get the message through to the Trustees that the mass of administrators is cutting off their access to the honeypot, its all over except the mopping up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ass Deans

No, this isn't about Kate Beckinsale butt shots, so go away

and y'all come back later, OK?

It's just a quick link to the President of the MLA holding forth on adjunct faculty.

Along the way, Prof. Berube drops some truly impressive numbers:

And as for those “strong market forces”: though it’s true that “colleges and universities have been facing severe budget pressures for the better part of two decades,” somehow this has not slowed the growth of university administration. Quite the contrary. As Benjamin Ginsburg points out in The Fall of the Faculty, administrators and managers at public colleges numbered 60,733 in 1975; 82,396 in 1995; and 101,011 in 2005. At private colleges, those numbers are 40,350 in 1975, 65,049 in 1995, and an astonishing 95,313 in 2005 (almost 47 percent growth in only ten years! amazing what the market can do when it puts its mind to it).

He seems to have mipelsed Ginsberg, whose book we will be hunting.

Anyhow, despite not really being in favor of having 200,000 Deans, we wish Judy well in her pursuit of the title Associate Dean of Facilities for Proactive Intermediation.

Update : Over 10,000 page views & no comments. Who the hell is "reading" this post?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Walt Hriniak, Superstar

Baseball is a pretty simple game. In 140 years, the only bright players were Moe Berg & Ron Darling. The only person too stupid to play was Reuben Sierra, and they gave him 20 years to prove it.

So Riley, who was a baseball player for about 106 minutes

brought up Walt Hriniak, Star Hitting Coach today.

There are only 2 important things in a batting stance : Hold the bat back far enough that you don't pull it back even more when the pitch is released, and protect your jewels.

Clearly, Evans had these covered. So how does a hitting coach get famous? I'm thinking Hawthorne Effect #1. You're crazy enough to seem a mad scientist, you get the players to buy in, they clear their heads & watch the damn ball. That's all you need.

So why no more famous hitting coaches since? Things have prety much gone back to the pre-Hriniak model, where the coach is just a worn out ballpalyer who sits around, spits tobacco & tells the manager when you've developed a hitch. I think the main thing is the development of the serious manager. In the days of McNamara, being a manager was a pretty low stress occupation. Show up, don't pass out, keep things on an even keel. As Hawthorne II showed us, success is all about group dynamics, and with a bunch of farmboys that grew up playing the game, that was what worked.

Now the only ones who get to drink are the pitchers in the bullpen. (MacNamara tells us that that's an old tradition)

Me? I think hits come from Jobu.

Everything's cool until you drink Jobu's rum.
And then Riley mentioned magazine subscriptions. No! Not even in jest. I'll be with my best buds, Shelly & Jose.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Opening Credits

Nothing much happened today. I was going to tell you all about Judy chasing Charlie, but it occured to me that it's high time to introduce the rest of the characters you can expect to see here soon : Judy, Dom, Ken, Riley, Charlie, Holly, Diane, John
& me:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Driving my life away

So I tried again with the random story. This one was a pretty gripping tale of aging, driving, and unwelcome messages.

Barbie had her own take on the subject.

I never argue with Barbie

The Leisure of the Theory Class

Thanks to peer pressure, I've been reading bits of Thorstein Veblen's extended joke, The Theory of the Leisure Class. The basic line is that the actual ruling class values status above all, and gets that status by not working. By using the language of virtue, which for everybody else has been associated with work, he's doing mockery.

Dip a toe in anywhere, & you get something good -

In this connection it is worthy of notice that the possibility of producing pathological and other idiosyncrasies of person and manner by shrewd mimicry and a systematic drill have been turned to account in the deliberate production of a cultured class—often with a very happy effect. In this way, by the process vulgarly known as snobbery, a syncopated evolution of gentle birth and breeding is achieved in the case of a goodly number of families and lines of descent.

Cute, but he pounds the same joke for hundreds of pages.

Take away the snark, and the way this plays out in what now passes for real life is a desperate striver confused as to whether they are showing off industriousness or elegance, culminating in a desperate mess

As our economy moves more from reality to finance & propaganda, class & connections settle firmly into place. What's one to do? Fevered striving or feigned indifference?

Barbie can't handle mixed messages.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Angry Barbie, no Beckinsale

It's an average gray afternoon in February, so what better time to base a post on a random story from Little did I know that today was the day they release the state employee salary list.

The University of Massachusetts again has the distinction of employing all but one of the state’s 50 highest-paid public workers, 2011 state records show.
The two top earners are Michael F. Collins, the University of Massachusetts Medical School chancellor, who made $761,314; and Terence R. Flotte, the medical school’s dean, who was paid $701,141.

The actual list is pretty amazing:

3 chancellors, more deans and vice deans than you can count, associate & assistant professors...

Point being, that it's not the amount any one person makes that's the issue here. My problem is that there's so bloody many administrators wandering around doing nothing that it makes the whole place freeze up.

Barbie is about to default on her student loans.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kate Beckinsale Does Squat

Kate Beckinsale has been pretty busy as she closes in on 40. She has 3 movies in the can. One is a remake of "Total Recall". Phil Dick was ahead of his time in some ways, but in a lot more was utterly of his time. One of these was the sexist violent world we'd lived in since approximately forever.

It seems that, very quietly, we've become a much less violent country:

Number of Students Struck Each Year in U.S. Public Schools

1976 992,675 65 447,314 29 1,521,896 3.5
1978 940,467 65 411,271 29 1,438,317 3.4
1980 901,032 64 403,386 29 1,408,303 3.4
1982 no statistical projection was made this year
1984 852,427 64 374,315 28 1,332,317 3.3
1986 659,224 60 345,411 31 1,099,731 2.7
1988 549,572 61 255,296 28 898,370 2.2
1990 346,488 56 208,543 34 613,760 1.5
1992 295,050 53 215,684 39 555,531 1.3
1994 256,363 54 182,394 39 470,683 1.1
1997 241,406 53 178,114 39 457,754 1.0
1998 199,572 55 135,523 37 365,058 0.8
2000 181,689 53 132,065 39 342,038 0.7
2003 159,446 53 115,819 38 301,016 0.6
2004 143,002 53 104,627 38 272,028 0.57
2006 119,339 53 79,613 36 223,190 0.46

Wich may have someting to do with why violent crime is down 60% since 1990.
Not sure how this all will play out, but maybe Kate & Barbie have something to teach us.

Nope. I got nothing.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

It's a Gas Gas Gas

This weeks EIA natural gas storage report shows that there's 2888 billion cubic feet in storage. Natural gas is seasonal. In a normal year, it peaks around 3000 bcf about Halloween and then bottoms out at 1200 in late March. Anything over 3500, they're wondering where to put it. So, with winter winding down, we have enough in storage to start a whole new winter.

You can see that this is a problem. Everybody went crazy into fracking at the same time a few years ago, and due to the long lead time, they're all going into full production at the same time, so that now the stuff is absurdly cheap. Gas at $2.50/ 1000 cubic feet is energetically equivalent to oil at $15/ barrel. Oil is trading at $115/ barrel. So, some companies are going under, and then, the price will shoot back up. That's capitalism!

Once the gas is gone, what do we have?

Yep. Sunshine. Meanwhile, how are gas companies getting by? Producing at $5 and selling at $2.50 is not easy. First, strip out every bit of longer hydrocarabons & sell it. When petroleum engineering fails, go to financial: Capitalize everything, then every 3 or 4 years, write off a billion. This makes it look like they're profitable in general, but have the occasional bad year.

Until the writedown leaves them insolvent & the next bond won't sell. If you're ready for the serious version, AE Berman at TheOilDrum
(Edited because the first video bored me & the wrap needed clarity)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Kate Beckinsale Nose

Blogger & Google are nice enough to tell me what people who come here are looking for. Don't worry, they don't say who you are. To me, anyhow. Assume that the NSA knows everything. The titular search term launched one of those Voyages of Discovery.

Is this worth noticing? Or is it just makeup?

Somebody* was assuming that, being British and all, Dear Kate was natural. Guess we showed him!

Also too:

Unleash Marissa Wiegler!


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Meanwhile, back at WGU

So I just posted about reducing staff expenses. Harvard is about to layoff some librarians. In a budget of $3.5 billion, a couple of librarians is , well, lets look at the compensation of some suspects at the management company (which invests the $32 billion endowment):

Steven Blyth : $8,443,253
Steven Alperin: $6,848,872
Jane Mendilo: $3,498,269
Apoorva Koticha: $4,467,157

Their 990s for the last 2 years are too big for the AG site, but it turns out that ERI has a nice database. Other than the management company, Harvard isn't quite as insane as other Ivy League Schools. Faust barely made $800,000. They have 20,000 students and 33,000 employees.

Hoo Rah Kai Rah! It's going to take more than one look to understand this elephant. There's a lot more here than a school.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

My Five Year Mission starts with an info Bleg

I need to join the struggle to reduce college costs. There are a lot of aspects to cost inflation at universities, and there seem to be people upset at all of them:
The number of administrators continues to rise. At some schools, they are starting to outnumber faculty.

The higher pay scales are ridiculous. At UPenn, there are 15 people who made over $1,000,000 in 2010. In Massachusetts, the place to get basic information is the AGs office look up -
Tufts had 2832 staff, 1014 faculty in 2010.

Tenured faculty are bought off from complaining with generous salaries, absurdly light teaching loads, and nobody even making them show up.

To compensate for this, actual teaching is dumped on underpaid non-tenure track lecturers, adjuncts and grad students.

The big picture is, just like in corporate world, management is operating Universities for the benefit of management. Everybody else is a cost or a sucker.

The obvious need is to turn on the lights and make the cucas scramble.

My need is information - links to organizations, cost data, places that are bucking the trend. Or else, in a few years, I'll be just another sucker.

Friday, February 03, 2012

In case you wondered

I've nothing against cats, but on 2nd viewing of the Devo video "Pink Pussycat", decided it isn't really that good and took it down. It did have an image that looked a bit like this:

which is on a page that starts with some mildly interesting astronomy but rapidly descends into a mishmash of 2 major strains of hooey : astrology & stock charting. These are tools to be used against fools, if you remember what Nitschke said : I'm not a madman.

The Metro Mathcounts competition is today in Melrose. I'll be going to watch the last round. At least those kids should grow up immune to this kind of nonsense.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Shiny Plastic People

One of the most interesting things I've heard about the Superbowl was good old Andy

explaining that cheerleaders do nothing for him because they were too plastic. This is actually pretty easy to understand. Consider the plastic twosome- Barbie & Jessica:

In your efforts to remain unreal, when gravity overtakes diet, exercise, makeup, dye & plastic surgery,

there's still Photoshop*

So, unless you're SARAH, or Mary C Ricks:

you roll with it.

As you sit in a group in front of a TV this Sunday, and a squad of robotronic cheerleaders performs, while you're pondering whether it would be lamer to not fake enthusiam or to fake it, remember : Once they leave the stadium, they're as real as the rest of us.

And ignore the screen. You know you want to. Because somewhere Barbie

is plotting revenge against the Komen Foundation.

And sorry, Andy, but Beckinsale - no thanks.

Time for Project Runway!

*Good catch, Mew

UPDATE: Gin & Tacos puts this notion to a motion.