Back in May, 2013, I wrote about the potential for using graphene to desalinate water. If graphene has all these miracle properties, watch for more economic growth and more change as entrepreneurs find less expensive ways to produce and use high-quality graphene . Wow!
Update: Jack recommends the Wikipaedia link to many of the potential uses being touted for graphene. Also, see this for the possibility that even more materials with even more desireable properties might be in the pipeline.
Tomorrow evening is our final performance of "Unforgiven", an entry in this year's London One-Act Festival at the McManus Theatre in London, Ontario. Tickets for this (and three other shows altogether) are only $15.
To be honest, I was less-than-enthusiastic about the script when I first read it. But with creative insight from Diane Haggerty (director) and Rhonda Allen (co-star), it has turned into a very moving piece. I will be quite surprised if they don't win awards for their work on this play.
First, China is notorious for making announcements about air pollution and then not implementing them. This is only partially a matter of lying, in part the government literally does not have the ability to keep its word. They have a great deal of coal capacity coming on-line and they can’t just turn that switch off. They’re also driving more cars, too.
Second, China falsifies estimates of the current level of air pollution, so as to make it look like the problem is improving when it is not. Worse yet, during the APEC summit the Chinese government blocked the more or less correct estimates coming from U.S. Embassy data, which are usually transmitted through an app. ...
Third, a lot of the relevant Chinese regulatory apparatus is at the local not federal level (in fact it should be more centrally done, even if not fully federalized in every case). There are plenty of current local laws against air pollution which are simply not enforced, often because of corruption, and often that pollution is emanating from locally well-connected, job-creating state-owned enterprises. Often the pollution comes from one locality and victimizes another, especially in the north of the country. .... The Chinese also do not have anything close to a consistently well-staffed environmental bureaucracy.
Fourth, if you look at the history of air pollution, countries clean up the most visible and also the most domestically dangerous problems first, and often decades before solving the tougher issues. For China that highly visible, deadly pollutant would be Total Particulate Matter, which kills people in a rather direct way, and in large numbers, and is also relatively easy to take care of. ... The Chinese people (and government) are much more worried about TPM than about carbon emissions, which is seen as something foreigners complain about. Yet TPM is still getting worse in China, and if it is (possibly) flat-lining this year that is only because of the economic slowdown, not because of better policy.
When will China cap carbon emissions? “Fix TPM and get back to me in twenty years” is still probably an underestimate. Don’t forget that by best estimates CO2 emissions were up last year in China by more than four percent. How many wealthier countries have made real progress on carbon emissions? Even Denmark has simply flattened them out, not pulled them back.
When I lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, one of the things that struck me was how much it was like Lincoln, Nebraska, in one important aspect: fan and city-wide enthusiam for the local football team. Both cities are quite far from any other city that offers one of the four major-league professional sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) and football in both cities attracts fans from the entire state/province.
My first few game days in Regina, over four years ago, reminded me very much of what it was like driving through Lincoln, NB, on game day: People were dressed in team colours, and it wasn't just some of the fans going to the game. It was ALL of the fans going to the game and many who weren't. In Lincoln, there is a sea of red and white on game day; in Regina, it is a sea a green.
And this map from the NYTimes confirms my impression about Lincoln. The people in Nebraska (and Alabama as well, it turns out) reallylike NCAA football [the map is fascinating. It's worth a look]. That same devotion/fanaticism/support is what I see on game days in Regina, too.
Conor Friedersdorf, writing in the Atlantic, marvels not that Obama's approval rating is "only" 42%; he says it should not be even that high [via Ralph]:
[H]ere's what I find alarming: Confronted with a president who 1) spied on every American; 2) covered up torture; 3) continued a War on Drugs ruinous to minorities and whole foreign nations; 4) killed hundreds of innocents in drone strikes; 5) waged war illegally and killed an American citizen without due process (while suppressing the legal reasoning used to do so); 6) let high-ranking national-security officials break the law with impunity; and 7) persecuted whistleblowers—confronted with all of those transgressions, more than four in 10 Americans still approve of the job Obama is doing. And most of them are loyal Democrats. Partisanship and tribalism are overriding the moral compass of too many liberals, who ought to be furious with Obama. National-security policies he unilaterally pursued will be harming the U.S., its moral standing, and its most vulnerable citizens for years if not decades to come, especially since Democrats are poised to make civil illibertarian Hillary Clinton their party's next leader.
And these points do not include his cozying up with Muslim fanatics, Benghazi, the devastation of health care for so many people now reduced to part-time jobs, and the cronyism with Goldman Sachs and others on Wall Street.
Jim Murray writes a whisky bible in which he rates and ranks whiskies from around the world. The big "scandal" (of sorts) this year is that a Japanese scotch-type whisky was ranked number one; furthermore, no whisky from Scotland made the top five of his ranking.*
Clearly Mr. Murray and I have different tastes (and different budgets). Perusing his rankings from the past on this site, I see very few peated whiskies other than just about anything from Ardbeg, which I like but which is not my favourite. Furthermore the Lagavulins and Laphroaigs on the list were not my favourites from those distilleries. I likely have quite plebian tastes, but my two favourite peated whiskies in past taste tests have been Lagavulin 16 and Caol Ila (see this), neither of which makes his top lists or ratings.
One big shock: the Liquor Control Board of Ontario had quarter-cask LaPhroaig on sale for $10 off yesterday. Wow! I think I prefer the 10-year-old LaPhroaig to their quarter-cask, but I still bought some.
*note: Christine Logan, who was my guide when I toured the Island of Islay, at one time worked for Bowmore Distillery and then later did some work for a Japanese distillery. She had very nice things to say about their whiskies 4 years ago when I traveled with her.
Addendum: after seeing this, a friend who knows something about the industry wrote me:
Jim Murray was a great Ardbeg fan in the early days when he went over to Islay gleaning all information for his writings. I do not rate him highly.
In November 2013, one of the urinals near the economics department at The University of Regina was dedicated to my memory. I was honoured:
I really expected someone there in the admin to be upset (or at least not amused) and was surprised that the plaque was still in place when I visited the university last month to give a seminar.
Yesterday a former colleague from the University of Regina wrote me that the plaque has disappeared. I'm disappointed but not surprised.
Two years ago, frustrated because Apple wouldn't bring out a larger iPhone and because their mini-iPad was too big to carry in my cargo pants pockets, I bought a Samsung Note2. I know many people love their Samsung phones and Android, but it was a big mistake for me (see this and this).
Despite using the Note2 for two years, I never adjusted to Android, and I never figured out some of the features on the Note2. I found myself using my iPad2 more often, and I can't count the number of times I said, "I hate this phone."
Finally, when the iPhone6+ was announced, I ordered one immediately. And I love it.
Everything was much easier for me to do on the iPhone 6+, most likely because my first smartphone was an iPhone, and I continued my familiarity with iOS using my iPad (see below).
I'm no tech guru (despite having been familiar with WatFor (Fortran II), DOS, and even some Windows programming for Windows 1.x). Digging around in Android to try to figure out how to do things was frustrating and certainly not fun. I don't have to do that in iOS.
Size: The screen of the 6+ is about the same size as the screen of the Note2, measured diagonally. But the 6+ is about a half inch longer and a quarter inch narrower. This difference means the 6+ (in a silicone case, see below) sticks out of my shirt pocket a bit more, but it also means that I can still easily fit a pen in my shirt pocket alongside the 6+, something that wasn't always easy with the Note2.
Battery Life: I had a backup battery for my Note2, and it seemed I was always having to charge up the phone and/or swap batteries. The iPhone6+ has an amazingly long battery life. Lots of my friends have complained about the short battery lives of their Samsung phones as well, so I'm not alone with this point.
Battery Life, continued: I used to plug my Note2 in overnight and then hope it could last through the day. Often it didn't; I was always checking the battery levels and recharging the phone. Because I had to keep the phone plugged in at night, when I woke up during the night, I would use my iPad to check my email, browse Facebook, and read novels. Now that I have my iPhone 6+, I have not touched my iPad. I plug the phone into my computer to charge it up now and then (with the side benefit of synching the apps and backing up the phone, all automatically), but I do everything on my 6+ and have never even come close to running out of battery power.
WiFi Connections: The wifi connections were never consistently automatic on my Note2. I have had ZERO problems with making and renewing wifi connections automatically on my iPhone6+.
Speed: the 6+ seems faster to me. I have run no tests and have no benchmarks, but it just seems faster. Many of the reviews agree that it is.
Screen resolution: The resolution on the 6+ seems better than anything I have seen anywhere else. I'm sure other smartphones do well in this regard, too, but this is pretty frickn amazing.
Things from Android/Note2 I thought I would miss:
Back button: I admit that I do sometimes hit the lower right-hand corner of the 6+, trying to go back to a previous screen. But most of the apps I use have a back button in the upper left-hand corner. I just need to learn where it is.
Menu button: Android beats iOS on this. Most iOS apps have a setting button that lets me do what I want to do, and some have a menu button near the upper left-hand corner. But having a specific menu button in the lower left-hand corner would be a nice addition to iOS.
Three-word smart-word completion possibilities: I was pleasantly surprised to see this on my 6+! Yea!
Number keys atop the QWERTY row of keys: I want this. Anyone who lives in Canada (or elsewhere) that uses a mix of letters and numbers for postal codes gets frustrated typing those on an iPhone or iPad. The same goes for most passwords. I've looked a bit for an app that will give it to me, and I would be grateful for pointers if you know of one.
Gmail: the Gmail app on both phones is frustrating. I detest the "conversation" view in gmail, preferring the chronological view of my messages; I still haven't figured out how to get rid of the conversation view on a smartphone, even though I have turned it off on my laptop. Also I haven't found a gmail calendar look that I like on my 6+ as much as I liked the one I used on my Note2. [Addendum: it would also be nice if there were an easy way to move messages out of the inbox into various folders. The autocompletion for doing this in Gmail on a laptop is wonderful, but I have not seen any easy way to do it with a smartphone]
Books: I am disappointed that the Stanza reading app is no longer available for iOS (and was never available for Android). I loved being able to swipe up and down to alter the brightness of the screen [Update: see below]
Books, continued: It is frustrating that Apple makes it more difficult to order ebooks from Kindle and Kobo on their iPhones. I don't always want to order iBooks.
Micro SD card: I loved being able to store things on a 64GB micro SD card for my Note2. Sometimes getting the Note2 to communicate with my MacBook was such a hassle, it was easier to take the phone apart, remove the SD card, and plug it into my laptop. Communication between my 6+ and my MacBook is smooth, though, and I bought a 64 GB iPhone 6+, and so this isn't a problem for me, at least not yet.
Case: I bought the silicone case from Apple, in part to protect the phone, but in part to keep the phone from slipping out of my shirt pocket too easily (e.g. when I lean over). It works perfectly.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Update: After reading this, my younger son, Adam Smith Palmer, wrote that with iOS 7 and iOS 8, it is possible to swipe up from the bottom of a screen to open the control centre and change screen brightness there. Okay, I see that it works, but so far I am struggling with the swipes, trying to get them to do what I want, when I'm using Bluefire (mostly to read scripts) or even Kindle (where I read novels). Much of the time, swiping up reveals a "control centre icon" or whatever it is called, but then I can't get it to open the control centre; eventually I'll probably master the touch. It seems to require a double swipe to make this work [duh!]. This feature looks much like the swipe-down feature on my Note2, from which I could check things and open control features.
Also, though, when I adjust the brightness that way, the iPhone doesn't show me what the screen will look like, and I'm left guessing about what level of brightness I might end up with [Ah, I see now that it does really show the brightness while I'm messing with the brightness slider].
This method of controlling brightness seems to affect all the apps on the phone, not just the brightness of whatever app I am using to read ebooks. For now, I think it is easier just to use the settings buttons to adjust brightness. Stanza was much better with this feature (plus, it allowed me to choose from myriad options for colours, line spacing, etc.).
Well, we have been on Daylight Savings Time (except in Saskatchewan) for about 7 months. It is now time for us to change our clocks (in Saskatchewan, change our television viewing patterns) for the next five months or so. Set 'em back tonight before you go to bed or tomorrow morning after you get up.
If that has been "daylight savings" I guess we now move on to daylight wasting time.
There will be a partial eclipse of the sun today. From the CBC:
The eclipse will start in Western Canada around 1:30 p.m. PT in Vancouver and Victoria and move east. At its peak around 3 p.m. PT, the moon will cover about two-thirds of the sun when viewed from southern B.C.
Generally, the eclipse will be greater (cover more of the sun) the further west and further north a viewer is.
In Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, the eclipse will start around 5:40 p.m. ET. The sun will set during the eclipse, after the moon covers about one-third of the sun.
I won't be able to see any of it because I'll be at the Hilton doing a Murder for Hire show. However here, also from the CBC, are some safety tips if you want to look at it:
A discussion with Facebook friends led to this pair of queries:
Some preferred contracting ebola, with the expectation they would be cured.
Others mentioned sizable alimony from Kim.
But some still said there are fates worse than death, and marriage to Kim would be one of those.
Ok, I'm not hearing the beeps during the NLCS, so why was it there during the ALCS?
And another question: why are we not seeing the pitch-tracker (computerized graphic showing where pitches were relative to the strike zones) during the league championship series?
I'm watching baseball's ALCS on the international telecast via Sportsnet in Canada. Near the top of each half inning, there's a beep, rapidly repeated four or five times. It's not always before the first pitch; sometimes it is after one or two pitches have been thrown. Does anyone have any idea what that is about?
I'm not thrilled with this year's selection to win the Nobel Prize in economics. People who know me and know my work will not be surprised by this. Despite Tyler Cowen's thorough and positive assessment of the work of the 2014 prize winner's contributions to the field, I took a dimmer view.
Most simply put, I saw much of Tirole's work as the use of high-powered pyrotechniques to justify gubmnt intervention by elitist interventionists.
I tend, most likely because of my own priors, to favour Bill Shughart's assessment of Tirole's work:
[L]ike many of his contemporaries, Professor Tirole treats policy interventions “intended” to restrain the exercise of market power and to protect consumers against its abuse as being designed and implemented by benevolent “public servants,” who survey dispassionately a nation’s industrial economy, identify and then surgically excise the tumors of monopoly, all with laser-sharp eyes on enhancing social welfare. To my knowledge, he never considered Chicago-school criticisms of economic regulation (showing that regulatory agencies tend to be “captured” by the very firms they supposedly are meant to regulate in the “public interest”) or public choice theories (and evidence) showing that the enforcement of the antitrust laws is deformed by special-interest-group politics.
Professor Tirole should be credited with appreciating that governmental intervention predictably fails if it follows a one-size-fits-all approach, imposing the same rules on every member of a particular industry or, indeed, an economy as a whole. But his later work on credit “bubbles”, the recent global financial crisis and ongoing slow recovery from it demonstrates a pro-government mindset in that, according to Reuters, he traces current economic woes to “insufficient government regulation.” Again according to Reuters, “Tirole himself was cautious on the economic prospects of his country, where unemployment is stuck at around 10 percent and whose leaders last month broke the latest in a series of promises to bring public lending to within EU limits.”
To be fair, Tirole has applied mathematical game theory and analysis of the principal-agent problem to public choice theory as well as to industrial organization. And I presume he has done so admirably.
But at the same time, Tirole's work seems to show a lack of concern for what Hayek termed "The Fatal Conceit":
The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
Update: I may have overreached, likely because of the misuse of Tirole's results by too many people (including the Nobel committee in Sweden). See this piece by former student, David Henderson. The concluding three paragraphs:
Mr. Tirole also has examined so-called two-sided markets. Consider Google : It can price its services to users (one side) and its services to advertisers (the other side). The higher the price to users, the fewer users and, therefore, the less money Google would make from advertising. Google’s choice is to set a zero price to users and to charge for advertising. In 2006 Mr. Tirole and his Toulouse co-author Jean-Charles Rochet demonstrated that the decision about profit-maximizing pricing is complicated, and they do some heavy math to compute such prices under various theoretical conditions.
But they do not commit the mistake of thinking that regulators are necessarily better than firms in setting prices. Consider the recent issue of interchange fees (IF) in payment-card associations like Visa and MasterCard . Many regulators have advocated government regulation of such fees. But in 2003, Messrs. Rochet and Tirole wrote that “given the [economics] profession’s current state of knowledge, there is no reason to believe that the IFs chosen by an association are systematically too high or too low, as compared with socially optimal levels.” In other words: Back off. Interestingly, the article from which I’m quoting was not among the 159 articles referenced by the Nobel Committee.
If George Stigler were alive today, he would probably recognize, in Jean Tirole, a kindred spirit. In 1950 Stigler advocated breaking up U.S. Steel . In his 1988 memoirs he confessed, “I now marvel at my confidence at that time in discussing the proper way to run a steel company.” Mr. Tirole seems to share Stigler’s humility.
Renowned pro-Israel writer, Melanie Phillips, will be visiting London, Ontario, on October 28th. I am delighted, and I will make sure I go to see her.
I have been following Melanie Phillips' writings for nearly a decade, including her early blogging, and while I was teaching in England we corresponded about the growing influence of Islam in London, England. Her book, Londonistan, was published about that time and I think it was one of the last books I ever bought in hardback.
Here are the details about her upcoming visit to this London:
Columnist for the Times of London, Jerusalem Post and Jewish Chronicle, and author of Londonistan, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power, and Guardian Angel.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm
London Jewish Community Centre
536 Huron Street, London Tel: 519-673-3310
With thanks to Eva, Mary Lou, Susan, and many others for helping to make this happen.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. It's always on the second Monday of October, giving us a wonderful 3-day weekend to enjoy the autumn colours of the leaves changing.
These days, many people (perhaps most?) celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with friends and family on Sunday rather than on the actual holiday Monday. Makes sense to me. It gives everyone a day to prepare, a day to celebrate, and a day to recover. Alternatively a day to drive, a day to rest, and a day to drive back home.
For me it will be different this year; Ms. Eclectic is out west, visiting and celebrating with her family. Meanwhile, I'm having a play rehearsal today and visiting with friends tomorrow.
Mostly, though, my Thanksgiving this year is being catered by Pizza Hut: buy one pizza and get the next three for "five bucks, five bucks, five bucks."
Above all, I don't know how else to say this, but I can't believe the wonderful life I have had. Everyday is Thanksgiving for me.
Some basic data from the WSJl [via Sean]:
For low-income workers, total pay and benefits rose by 41% from 1999 through 2006. But these workers’ wages increased only by 28%, barely outpacing inflation. The reason: Employer costs for these workers’ health costs nearly doubled, from 6.5% to 12.2% of compensation, and ate up money that could have gone toward salaries.
Now consider a worker who earns $250,000 or more a year. BLS data show that total compensation for these workers rose by 36% from 1999 through 2006. That’s actually less than for low-income workers. But the one-percenters’ health costs rose from just 4% of compensation in 1999 to only 4.3% in 2006.
It’s not that their health costs didn’t rise in dollars terms, it’s simply that health benefits are a much smaller part of their total pay and benefits. As a result, salaries for the one-percenters grew by 35%, a faster rate than for low-wage workers. The inequality of total compensation barely changed from 1999-2006, but rising health-care costs held back the growth of lower- and middle-class earnings.
There's much more in the original piece. Inequality likely has not increased over the years, and certainly has not increased as much as the strident redistributionists assert that it has.