Monday, April 30, 2007

Suborbital commuting

Space vacations are getting a lot of press lately. You can even book your space vacation right now if you have $200,000 in next year's vacation budget.

But what about suborbital commuting? Traveling at 17,000 mph could sure cut down the time spent traveling on long business trips. If you're Steve Jobs, you can travel in a Gulfstream V, but you're still only going at 740 mph.

Time is money.

If you were willing to pony up around $15 million or so, three people could cut the commute from, say, LA to Singapore from 15 hours to about 1/2 an hour in one of these and be dropped onto the lawn of the office building of your choice (provided it was insulated from the landing rocket's blast, of course).

But who makes so much money that saving a day's traveling would be worth $5 million?

The top three hedge fund managers do (well close, their average income is around $4 million a day).

Will space commuting be far behind space vacations?

Time is money.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Swiftboating the White House press corp

The left side of the blogosphere is jumping on the White House press corp for their failure to...have written piece after piece saying Bush is lying in the lead up to the Iraq War and its aftermath.

Sycophants and royal courtiers are the terms being applied to those hapless reporters who failed to ask the "tough questions."

But, if you read through the White House press briefings from that time, you can see those reporters did indeed ask the tough questions.

The things is, when the president says something, it's news and get reported as such.

A question from the White Huse press corp to the administration's spokesmen that gets a noncomittal answer isn't news.

That's the way it works.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Old money vs. noisy money

My dream of spending a quiet sunny afternoon reading in the hammock thwarted in the usual way: a neighbor has decided he must have an Olympic-sized Koi pond built in his back yard.

I figure two to three days of jackhammering will be needed to remove the sport court he had installed in the same spot last year.

Then weeks with other work crews operating their noise generators to follow.

Do newly rich people secretly get together and make sure at least one of them has a project going that shatters the neighborhood peace at all times?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Modern playground equipment sucks

My local parks and schools continue to install bizarre new pieces of equipment that are more like works of art than somethings kids can actually play on. They're dangerous, prone to vandalism (plastic burns) and offer kids far less fun and exercize than old-fashioned swings, slides and monkey bars.

I'm sure the latest generation of playground equipment looks very appealing to whoever is in charge of buying this equipment. Bright colors, fancy accessories like climbing walls, etc. must look great in the catalogue.

I get informative letters and meeting announcements all the time asking for my input in important civic improvements like transit projects, but you never hear about new playground equipment being installed. You just show up with your kids one day and there it is. No way there's money in the budget to dig it up, ship it back and put something more fun and functional in.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

China: Four years to #1?

China's National Bureau of Statistics has announced that China's economy grew at an annual rate of 11.1% in the first quarter of this year, despite government efforts to cool down the economy.

If you go by the method the CIA uses to measure the size of a country's economy, purchasing power parity, and you use an annual growth rate for China's economy of 11% and use an annual growth rate for America's economy of 2.2%, this means China's economy will surpass America's in size in about four years.

Of course, there's some real guess work in there, but none of it is that wild. I think China's economy may begin to grow at an even faster pace in the next five years or so, as consumer spending really takes off. And 2.2% isn't that far off the mark for America's economic growth rate considering many economists are predicting a recession (two quarters or more of negative GDP growth) for us soon.

I think we are indeed living in interesting times.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Education costs

Cost to send an 18 year old to Harvard for a year - about $50,000.

Cost to send an 18 year old to Iraq for a year - about $750,000.

"American" interests

Curious about the recent rise on the right of pro-Climate Change propaganda, I dug into exactly which states have a financial interest in preventing Kyoto-like restrictions on CO2 emissions.

I focused on industrial emissions because cutting back on the other major sources of CO2 emissions (transportation and energy generation) will most likely be subsidized at the federal level.

Here is some data I found in this .pdf file from the EPA.

Industrial CO2 emissions by state from burning fossil fuels, million metric tons - 2003:

1. Texas - 251.57
2. Louisiana - 91.33
3. California - 70.63
4. Indiana - 52.89
5. Pennsylvania - 46.62

Total - 513.04 49.2%

6. Illinois - 38.18
7. Ohio - 35.73
8. Michigan - 24.42
9. Alabama - 22.65
10. Alaska - 21.89

Total - 142.87 13.7%

++ State Average - 20.88

11. Georgia - 19.94
12. Tennessee - 19.84
13. Kentucky - 19.22
14. Oklahoma - 18.93
15. Virginia - 17.44

Total - 95.37 9.1%

16. Washington - 17.06
17. New York - 16.22
18. New Jersey - 15.75
19. Wisconsin - 15.45
20. North Carolina - 15.10

Total 79.58 7.6%

21. Iowa - 14.31
22. Kansas - 14.19
23. South Carolina - 13.86
24. Florida - 13.85
25. Minnesota - 13.60

Total - 69.81 6.7%

26. West Virginia - 13.41
27. Colorado - 11.64
28. Arkansas - 11.06
29. Missouri - 10.37
30. Mississippi - 10.19

Total - 56.67 5.4%

31. Wyoming - 10.12
32. New Mexico - 7.43
33. North Dakota - 7.11
34. Maryland - 7.05
35. Massachusetts - 6.81

Total - 38.52 3.7%

36. Utah - 6.42
37. Oregon - 6.40
38. Nebraska - 5.62
39. Montana - 4.97
40. Arizona - 4.03

Total - 27.44 2.6%

41. Delaware - 3.95
42. Idaho - 3.34
43. Connecticut - 2.90
44. Maine - 2.48
45. South Dakota - 2.27

Total - 14.94 1.4%

46. Nevada - 1.96
47. Hawaii - 1.44
48. New Hampshire - 1.07
49. Rhode Island - 0.57
50. Vermont - 0.51

Total 5.55 0.5%

America - Total 1043.79

State Average - 20.88

Texas alone produces 24.1% of America's industrial CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning.

As CO2 emissions will likely be reduced by law sometime in the near future, it might be in the interest of Texas companies to back Kyoto now while they have one of their own running the government.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Founding a new Great American City

I looked up the top 25 American cities by population and then looked up when they were founded and came up with this list:

New York 1625
Boston 1630
El Paso 1659
Philadelphia 1682
Charlotte 1692

Detroit 1701
San Antonio 1718
Baltimore 1729
San Diego 1769
San Francisco 1776
San Jose 1777
Jacksonville 1791

Columbus 1812
Milwaukee 1818
Memphis 1819
Indianapolis 1821
Austin 1835
Chicago 1837
Houston 1837
Dallas 1841
Fort Worth 1849
Los Angeles 1850
Seattle 1851
Denver 1858
Phoenix 1881

I was looking for the date some kind of permanent settlement began, you could quibble over the exact year in some cases, but close enough for my purpose.

The last top 25 American city to be founded was Phoenix, over 125 years ago, by a guy who was just passing through and realized it would make a great place for farming if he built a little irrigation first.

Why did the founding of such cities come to an abrupt halt over a century ago?

Not a single one founded in the 20th century.

Anyone who has driven through rural American knows there are some great, virtually deserted places where a major city could have thrived if only America's pattern of immigration and expansion had been different or a major deposit of precious metals had been located nearby.

Nice climate, cheap land, pretty setting, lots of water, etc.

Just no jobs, I guess.

With so many virtual office workers who can live anywhere around these days, could they somehow get together and found a 21st century New York somewhere in rural America?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Arming the tribes of al-Anbar (again)

So I see part of the "surge" is to arm the tribes of al Anbar and encourage them to go after the bad guys once again (this is our third attempt for this plan).

Anbar province, with a population of a little over a million, has been the most deadly province for U.S. soldiers since the start of the war. 1198 U.S. military personnel have been killed there. Second deadliest, of course, is Baghdad with 904 killed.

Arming and training the tribes may seem like a good idea in the short term, but I can't help but think that, in the long run, this decision will come back and bite us as similar tactics have in the past.

Iraq doesn't need any more armed militias.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The way we were

Our case is simple:

On the 1st of May, Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet.

This left the Archipelago in the hands of its proper and rightful owners, the Filipino nation.

Their army numbered 30,000 men, and they were competent to whip out or starve out the little Spanish garrison; then the people could set up a government of their own devising.

Our traditions required that Dewey should now set up his warning sign, and go away.

But the Master of the Game happened to think of another plan – the European plan.

He acted upon it.

This was, to send out an army – ostensibly to help the native patriots put the finishing touch upon their long and plucky struggle for independence, but really to take their land away from them and keep it.

That is, in the interest of Progress and Civilization.

-Mark Twain
Anti-Imperialist League of New York, 1901