Monday, April 30, 2012

UC Sunnydale Can Handle Zombies, but..

I've been focused on reducing the cost of a conventional college edumcation. 4 years at college is a grand thing. You get out of the house, on your own (but still supported), exposed to Big Thoughts - What's not to love?

Well, Ok, but most likely your roomie won't be a soul sucking demon.

Like most things, the whole "go away for 4 years to learn a trade" is not exclusive. There are other ways to learn stuff. The old fashioned way - reading books, with some contact with the people who already know the stuff. Online commercial enterprises. And coming soon? Who knows. MIT has had online videos for a while. Now we learn that some other rich & classy Universities are taking this to the next step, making it interactive. If I didn't have a bucketload of CPE to get done in the next month, I'd be all over this stuff.Another aspect of modern education is that it's mostly quite practical. Computers, engineering, business, education degrees - in what universe do these studies thrive in sylvan isolation?

Your social interactions with faculty will be minimal. Hell, you're unlikely to socialize with the grad student from Kolkhut that's doing the actual teaching.So, who knows? Maybe I've been reforming a dead horse.Meanwhile, another road towards sanity is opening. One of the many leeches sucking the money out of contemporary academia is the journal industry. The gloves have been thrown down, and it seems likely that in a few years all the output of the PHD mills will be freely available to all.I can only dread the havoc that will be unleashed.
(Title changed because the original blew goats)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I misplaced the bleeding mustard seed strips

When someone you trust tells you about a problem, what do you do? Believe them, and help as best you can. But always, there is the background thought : If I were to see this directly, how would it appear different?

In most cases, when you finally experience it directly, the difference is that it becomes much more intense than described.

When you hear of trouble from some impersonal source, you have to filter. Way too much trouble in the world for any person to deal with. Most people cope OK. Some develop dopey philosophies to justify ignoring suffering; some become saints. We all have to filter.

In the world now, the filtering is being abused to distort facts. Everyone knows how it works : The older you get, the more fixed your worldview, the more you rely on formula, the less on observation. There is a whole alternate reality created, visible to all, but ignored by the sane. Those forwarded emails with the Truth about Obama. About isalmosocialfacism & death panels and turning over the fruits of your labors to Them. You know the whole drill, and you know it's rubbish. Most of the people who believe it know it's rubbish. It's just easy to accept, and to assume that Rupert & Willard are lying to everybody else.

Which is just a recitation as introduction to the question : Who is it they aren't lying to? The easy answer may be : Nobody. They're even lying to themselves, thinking they've constructed this movement as a mindless beast that will lift them to permanent wealth & power, and there will never be a reckoning.

As scary as that possibility is, there's another: Somebody in the back has done the math, and they see this as the way to protect themselves when things fall apart.

As moronic as the austerian arguments seem, what is the real alternative? Consider simple growth policies that would bring Europe & the US back to full employment. What would be the price of oil if industrial output was 5% higher?

I don't have an answer. I don't think it would be possible under steady state assumptions about the makeup of economies. Hence, the people making the arguments about growth vs austerity policies may, despite rock solid cases in economic theory and comparative results, be missing the point. It's no longer about growth & prosperity vs. Hooverism. It's moved to the next stage, fighting over the crumbs.
Sure, there are people who point out that a reasonable society is still possible with changes in lifestyle, getting rid of cars, more equitable distribution of income, etc. And eventually they will win.

But the road there is going to be a tad rough.
UPDATE : Seeds found & planted. We shall see if anything grows.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bildungsromans are only for Romans

I was planning a post about the need at a certain age (18) to head out into the world in search of adventure. Then I realized : Taking off is something only the privileged can do. Everybody else is subject to increasing brutalization.

Alas : If you're not white, with educated accents, they will smash you. The story that brought this home, Roger Anthony being killed by cops for no reason whatsoever, is in a small way hopeful. Unlike most similar cases, the mayor was willing to admit the obvious:

Scotland Neck Mayor James Mills said he wouldn't blame the family for suing.

'There has been no information that this man was a threat to anybody,' he said.

5 months later, nothing much has happened. Getting killed by a taser is something that happend to somebody on average once a week. Given how many of the deaths are utterly pointless, how many of the people who survived the torture are being killed needlessly?

So, what's going on? Police have become tools of plutocracy. If you see the average people around you as your peers and employers, that's a good thing. If you see them as the enemy, and you have police powers...

She won a suit for $300,000.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Numberical Basis of Journamalism

Teh Blog may have lost a bit of focus lately. Today some things came together to point us back in the right direction.

No, the other right. Energy issues, and bad journalism. Following back on some derogatory comments about Chesapeake's CEO, I came upon a tale of one person selling $725 billion. (Which has since been stealth edited to a merely obscene $725 million)

After that, it was on to Australia!

Which I was told would soon be the Worlds Largest producer of natural gas. A totally absurd claim, so I followed the link to Allianz. There, it was obvious that the cluless hack that threw together the article had no idea what LNG was, or how it relates to the overall natural gas market.

Experts predict that by 2020 Australia will topple Qatar from its leading position among gas producers and rise to number one from its present ranking of fifth.

Qatar produces about 1/6 the quantity of gas of the US.

Amateur journalists (oil pros) do much better.

Ah, well. Seeking Alpha is more group sourced than journalistic. Surely real journalists don't screw up like this?

Yes. Surely you've read that the US is an oil exporter?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Basic Skilless

Throughout the ages, man has asked the question : What is the question?

And everyone has ignored that guy & gone about passing along the needed skills to get along in the world. At least, until sometime around the middle of the last century basic skills became passe. Why learn to cook when you can open a can or nuke a frozen meal? Why learn sewing when clothes are cheaper than cloth? Why garden when you don't have land?

All of which were perfectly reasonable ways to look at things. And really, the secret all mediocre teachers know : People can learn anything when they're interested and ready. So when you find yourself on your own, unless you're Megan McArdle, you'll pretty quickly learn basic cooking techniques, home maintenance, etc. Which is not the same as plumbing & drywall. That stuff is really impressive.

So what can you teach a kid? Trivia! we're already in training for the 2014 season.

This one comes easy. Does it carry any value into our devolving future of scarcity and dieoff? Play and find out, or not.

Billy Costa is OK, but I miss Dhaya Lakshminarayanan.

She has it going on,amirite?

One warning : When I tried the Facebook version of the online game it blowed up real good. Also too - Lexington in the semis. Look at the home prices in Lexington, if you have any doubts at all about the real value people place on a good school system that accomodates the good kids. HUGE!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The necessity of comments

I get about 1 comment for every 250-300 pageviews. (Less on Ass Deans) This is apparently not unusual. Tourists on the internet are shy creatures, wilting flowers afraid to leave their calling card for the locals to shred.

Still, it is necessary. Hard as it is to believe, I make mistakes. Having to catch them all myself is giving me gray hair. No, not on the head. Nothing grows on dry rocks. You know that.

What is the result of a culture of unwillingness to point out blazing idiocy?

The modern Republican Party.


Can't have that here, can we? So speak up.

If you're right, I'll say thank you. If not, well, at least I'll have fun.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spray, gas & competence

I've focused a lot on the sheer mass & excessive cost of university administrators, but haven't really mentioned their incompetence. To be quite clear - they're utterly useless.

One of the things that came up in Brad Hicks comments was how a 12 oz container carried easily in one hand could be 5 gallons in another version. I'm not particularly interested in pepper spray, but compression of natural gas is far more interesting.You need to do it for transport. Transport costs are really very high with shipping LNG - something like $5/mmBTU, over twice the Henry Hub price. Also, with residential - Henry Hub spot may be $2, but NStar is still charging $10. This contrasts with oil. Crude oil costs about $2.50-$3 per gallon, the gasoline fractions are about $3.30, and it's only $3.89 at the pump, with most of the increase being taxes.

(Exercise for the reader : Calculate the mass if those things weren't hollow)

With natural gas, throw in the time delays and by the time price based substitution & dispersion of exports gets significant, the new wells that have come online in the last year or two will have crashed. And we'll be back in shortage.

The idea that all systems head to equilibrium is just bunk. Some things are inherently unstable.

Even without Disney minions with a fiendish turntable flinging them over a cliff.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I like the concept of Junior Brown

The actuality is just OK, except Party Lights. Party Lights is great. My Baby Don't Dance to Nothin' but Ernest Tubb is more typical. Just when you're ready to start walking the floor, there's a reference to Faded Love. Faded Love is one hell of a song, so I want to find it instead. You can find anything on YouTube except good Bob Wills. So I had to settle for a cover.

There are times when you can focus on the future. Times on the outside world. And there are times when you live day to day, moment to moment.

If you're still wondering about why I haven't had any Deep Thoughts lately, well (A hole in the ground. Very deep subject) get out your crayons.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Somebody's going home tonight

When Survivor first appeared, it was a show about a bunch of people dealing with being stranded, trying to find food, working together.

Then Dr. Sean ran out of letters & everything changed. Richard Hatch had discovered the real game, and was on his way to fame, fortune, & the federal pen. I still remember where I was when that happened - in the maternity ward.

On and on the show has persisted. It has various charms. Watching people get stupid under stress is one of them. Another is the late season - we're about due tonight! 8pm on CBS! episode where the hungry bronzed cast meets up with the slugs from home. and of course, there's always a bunch of good looking women with their shreds of clothing falling apart.

So, if you've watched, you've learned. Learned about ways to get sick from drinking foul water. Ways to get injured. Ways to alienate 17 people. Ways to be first boot. After all of this, what would I be if I went on the show?

Second boot. Too damn old. Like Rudy on AllStars, sometimes the real lesson is that it's just too late. So, take it Parvati.

So glad that SOMEBODY could play a winning game & have fun.

UPDATE: Kim is running this game smoother than I've ever seen. going from even numbers (& down an idol) to up 6-3, with the idol wasted in 3 weeks - she's scary good.

Monday, April 09, 2012

All minds go to waste eventually

The process of aging, and the weird turns your mind takes on the way to becoming a victim of internet scammers and Glenn Beck, are quite an important and fun subject, until you're living them. Consider a fairly routine problem:

A machine can insert letters in envelopes at the rate of 120 per minute. Another machine can stamp the envelopes at the rate of 3 per second. How many such stamping machines are needed to keep up with 18 inserting machines of this kind?

The math couldn't be simpler : 12. No, where I had a problem was the grammar. Is the first such machines the 120 or the 180? Coming off a day dealing with people who never use a proper noun unless you shove bamboo under their fingernails, I got totally lost looking for referents. Had to ask an 11 year old. Who derisivley pointed out the distinction between stamping & inserting machines.

So if I seem unduly dense, just slam the table and call me Ronnie. I'll understand. For now.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Rewriting 2008 hits a bump

Most people remember a couple of things about 2008. Oil got expensive, and the financial system crashed.

Not too many remember why the Tan Man should be in jail for the rest of his unnatural life.

I don't think anybody knows the full cause & effect here. The massive fraud fueled bubble in real estate & debt instruments was going to blow up pretty soon even without an oil crisis. It does seem pretty clear that the collapse in oil prices followed the economic collapse. And that we're all headed for New Appalachia

with bad teeth & less hairspray, but probably no children drafted into fights to the death.

But those are real questions, that require actual work to answer. Our topic today is much easier : Lying. Let let API President Jack Gerard have his say:

That July, Gerard said, the price of oil fell abruptly after President George W. Bush announced he would allow drilling in parts of the Outer Continental Shelf that for decades had been off-limits. As Gerard told it, “the price of crude oil over three days dropped $15 a barrel and continued to move down.” The lesson, he said, was that “markets are driven on a global basis by expectation. If the market heard the president of the United States say ‘I’m serious about producing my vast energy resources,’ you will see an impact in the market.”

I'm really kind of shocked that this rubbish was in a Washington Post article. Not because it's rubbish, of course, but because of, well...

The tale was an indictment of President Obama. But there’s one hitch, say oil experts. It doesn’t hold together.

& Steven Mufson proceeded to systematically demolish the whole load of rubbish.

Project #2 is to pretend that the collapse started in January, 2009. That one is so absurd, it will be October before it gets any traction. I'll be watching.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

In days of old....

If you held a public meeting, and too many people showed up for the room, you moved to a bigger room.

Now you pepper spray the loosers.

In a college context, the kids are your customers. How all these high paid managers think it's a good idea to chemically assault their customers is beyond me, in management terms. In human terms, it's much simpler : They're rat bastards.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I got nothing for you

Head on back to camp.

& yes, the question of how Hunger Games will deal with the problem of Individual Victory versus Systematic Doom is answered : by being Part 1 of a series. A very lucrative series, at least here in District 2, where we are used to being No. 2, and not trying at all.