Saturday, September 29, 2007

The poop on poop in North Carolina

Fact: North Carolina is the #2 hog raising state in the nation (btw, kudos to #1 Iowa).

Fact: The traditional way of dealing with hog waste is making huge lakes of it.

Fact: It is technically possible to capture the methane rising from these stinky carolinee swimmin' holes and make electricity from it.

Fact: It is however prohibitively expensive to do so.

Fact: A lot of people don't care about the cost.

Fact: Mungowitz, libertarian candidate for NC governor has railed about the waste of un-economical recycling.

Question: Is this any different?

Back in February one Carolina utility, Progress Energy agreed to pay farmers $0.18 per killowat hour of hog methane generated electricity. It typically pays $0.05 to indie producers of solar or wind generated electricity. Seem crazy? Well think again!

"This is a major step forward," said Dan Whittle, a program director for New York-based Environmental Defense. "The fact that Progress Energy is willing to pay triple of what it normally pays farmers is great news."

For who exactly is this great news Dan?

Now the NC state government has legislated a tripling of hog-methane generated electricity and apparently approved a series of fees for residential consumers and firms to cover the cost (I say apparently because this info is from the WSJ editorial page and thus of questionable provenance).

The bill also mandates capturing electricity from chicken waste. I recommend they run that pilot program right at the Capitol building.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who's Happy Now??

The latest news flash is that there is a growing happiness gap between men and women. Now I just assume that I am much happier than Mrs. Angus because I get to hang around with her while she has to hang around with me. She however keeps insisting that she is very happy.

Nonetheless, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, economists at the University of Pennsylvania (and a couple), have looked at the traditional happiness data, in which people are simply asked how satisfied they are with their overall lives. In the early 1970s, women reported being slightly happier than men. Today, the two have switched places.

Leave it to the NY times to immediately see a role for government policy:

A big reason that women reported being happier three decades ago — despite far more discrimination — is probably that they had narrower ambitions, Ms. Stevenson says. Many compared themselves only to other women, rather than to men as well. This doesn’t mean they were better off back then.

But it does show just how incomplete the gender revolution has been. Although women have flooded into the work force, American society hasn’t fully come to grips with the change. The United States still doesn’t have universal preschool, and, in contrast to other industrialized countries, there is no guaranteed paid leave for new parents.

Government policy isn’t the only problem, either. Inside of families, men still haven’t figured out how to shoulder their fair share of the household burden. Instead, we’re spending more time on the phone and in front of the television.

Holy Crap, Holy Crap, Holy Crap!!

The research reported on doesn't compare the happiness of women with access to preschool or maternal leave against those without such access, nor does it compare the happiness of women with and without loutish husbands. Neither the words "preschool" or "parental leave" appear in the Stevenson-Wolfers paper or the Krueger paper (nor does any other kind of paid leave).

Does anybody else find the Times' conclusions bizarre and bogus?

Angus like!!

These are a pair of one channel amps that together produce stereo sound.

These were made by a guy named Josh Stippich.

This is more or less how they work.

They are pretty sweet!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Separated at Birth??

Oh Yeah!! No doubt!!

Lightning Strike

The UAW-GM strike lasted all of two days. However, that was enough time for the NY times to editorialize that the strike was a wake up call to the Government to provide health care and for Tyler to wonder why there are strikes at all.

In my limited but colorful experience as a union rep for the United Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (I worked night shift as a welder while in college), a strike was an imagined Xanadu for the line workers. Any management affront, real or imagined (and there were plenty of both) brought a stream of guys past my station urging us to "Wildcat!" or saying "lets shut this m%#$*f%*er down big K". When our contract expired, the rank and file was adamant that we strike, and strike we did, though the offer we ended up accepting was slightly worse than the initial offer the company had made. For the first few weeks at least, the strike was a big party.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Waiting in Line For Halo, With the Salt of the Earth

Waited in line last night, at GameStop in Brier Creek Shopping Center.

Reminds me of the LAST time I waited in line to buy Halo 2. Pretty funny then, too.

This older son Kevin and I had an interesting talk about the problem of "wait-minimizing arrival time." The object is NOT to minimize the amount of time spent waiting after the store opens, at 12:01 am Tuesday. The object is to minimize TOTAL wait time.

We decided that arriving at 11:35 pm on Monday was a good guess. When we got there, the line was pretty long, stretching around the block. But the GameStop boys had it set up well. You go in (you had to have pre-ordered, and we did, four months ago) and pick up your pick up slip. That ticket is then to be exchanged, in seconds, for the copy of the game AFTER midnight passes and the game goes legally on sale. So, all the financial/ID stuff is done beforehand.

Games start flying out the door at 12:01. We were about 100th in line, but had our game by 12:10 am, amazing. Headed home, let the mayhem begin. "FINISH THE FIGHT!" Total wait time: 35 minutes. We should have arrived at 11:50, would have had the game by 12:15, for a TWT of only 25 minutes. Live and learn.

Highlight of the waiting: For some reason, people in line were really scornful about, as they called it, "the helmet." As in, "I hope I don't see anybody over 12 carrying THE HELMET."

I didn't know what was meant, but my sons told me that THE HELMET is this. Comes with the "Legendary edition," which is a lot like the regular edition, only twice as expensive.

Since it was pretty clear that most of the unshaven, overweight 35 year old men around me who were shouting at anyone carrying THE HELMET had never had the thing called THE DATE in their lives....well, it was a little pathetic to see these permanent bachelors criticize others.

Several 13-14 year old kids tried to hide THE HELMET as they walked by, but THE HELMET is pretty big. Forever scarred.

Coffee, Tea or YIKES!!!

Americans are fed up with domestic air service. A "passenger's bill of rights" is under consideration in Congress, and airlines report that uncivil passenger behavior is at an all time high.

But, things could be worse, you could be flying in Africa, as Micheal Gurshowitz testifies in the NY Times.

First, scheduling can be a problem:

Since few cities in Africa are connected by daily flights, the only routing my travel agent could find was one departing Accra on Dec. 23. I would arrive at 1 a.m. in Lagos, Nigeria, with a connecting flight to Douala, Cameroon’s largest city, 12 hours later. Then I would have a four-hour bus ride to Yaoundé. I passed.
A second travel agent suggested taking a bus to Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, and then flying to Douala on Kenya Airways. This seemed like a better choice. The cheapest round-trip ticket was $666. The bus trip took 16 hours and the outbound flight was over two hours late. But the flight, when it did arrive, was very pleasant.

And it's not always easy getting through the airport either:

Offloading baggage took more than an hour. A porter nagged me to hire him, which I declined. But he insisted, telling me the customs inspector would open my bags and help himself. I relented. As we approached customs, the porter told me to give him $20 to bribe the inspector. I handed over my $20, and we sailed through. But the porter demanded another $20 for his services, and when I balked, he shouted and I was immediately surrounded by several tough-looking men. Goodbye, $20.

Then there's the cancellations:

I arrived at the Douala airport, but the flight wasn’t listed. An airport major-domo told me someone from Kenya Airways had come by saying that the flight was canceled and that he should tell passengers to return Wednesday. This was Sunday, and I was scheduled to lead a grants workshop in Ghana on Tuesday. Air Chad was checking in passengers for a flight to Lomé, the capital of Togo, in two hours. I could get from Lomé to Ghana by bus. I was overjoyed — until the ticket clerk told me Air Chad only accepts cash. The ticket was $407 and I had $200. The airport’s A.T.M. was broken. I took a cab downtown and tried three others. All were broken. No banks were open. I convinced a hotel manager to give me a “cash advance” disguised as a purchase. I hurried back to the airport and ran to the gate. When I got there, there was no plane. Four hours later, it did arrive, a 1960s Fokker F-28, all but extinct elsewhere in the world. My extra costs were more than $700. Kenya Airways would give me only a 50 percent refund for the unused return ticket.

I actually have some personal experience in the opposite direction with Rwanda Air. We bought our tickets in advance with a bank transfer, but when we got to the airport (in Tanzania), there was no record available. We showed a copy of the the transfer receipt and the manager took the name of our hotel in Kigali and said "OK you can take the flight and if there is a problem Jimmy will contact you at your hotel." She then issued us round trip paper tickets and boarding passes. Another family was trying to buy tickets at the counter but faced the same no credit cards accepted and no ATM at the airport situation as Mr. Gurshowitz describes above. However, the airline sent an employee on the flight with them to accompany them to a bank in Kigali and collect the money ex-post!

What goes around comes around

It is a surrealistic scene in Peru right now with both Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán and his nemesis Alberto Fujimori in jail at the same time (to say nothing of Fujimori's hatchetman (or master as some would have it) Vladimiro Montesinos, who's also in the slammer).

Fujimori risked everything by leaving his safe haven of Japan to return to South America, Chile to be precise, to apparently try and re-start his devastated political career. He now will stand trial for misappropriation of funds and for human rights abuses related to a military "death squad's" operations in the 1990s.

I have very mixed feelings about this case. Peru was totally screwed and Fujimori saved it. He broke the Shining Path and brought stability, but apparently via systematic extra-legal means.

I also have some doubts about the possibility of a fair trial given that current President Alan Garcia, who lived in exile between the end of his previous term as president in 1990 and when he returned after Fujimori's departure, was subject to two attempts by the Fujimori regime to extradite him back to Peru to stand trial for corruption.

Karma sure can be a beeyoch.

H3 quick review

Visually very similar to H2, with subtle improvements. I like that very much. Didn't try to go overboard on moving plants or water that no one cares about after seeing it once.

New weapons. Spike grenade: weak at distance, disgustingly deadly at zero range. A good meaty "thwack" means the thrower needs to go hide for a few seconds. It's supper time.

Spartan laser: hard to use, but presumably gets easier with practice.

Assault rifle: nice. Default spawning weapon. Shoots well in bursts.

Gotta go. Master Chief needs taught a Covenant lesson tonight.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Halo 3: T-1 hour

In one hour and 2 minutes, the Mungowi will have our copy of Halo 3.

A report at 12:45 EDT on the early returns....

A Tussle with Russel

A podcast, with Russ Roberts in the interviewer chair, as always.

But the first part might not make sense without the previous podcast we did, or at least the essay on recycling.

One potato, two potato, three potato, four.....

According to the Economist, inflation in Argentina is running at 9.1% for the year so far. Not bad by their historical standards, but still the second highest rate among the 42 countries tracked by the magazine. The head of the Argentine central bank recently stated that it was cause for worry, which prompted the following response from the Kirchner government delivered by Cabinet chief Alberto Fernández: "En la Argentina no existe inflación" (Inflation does not exist in Argentina).


Alberto claims people are confounding a change in relative prices with an overall rise in the price level: "Descubren que la papa sube y entonces todos hablan de la papa, pero que la papa sube no quiere decir que hay un aumento generalizado de precios"

translation: They see potato prices go up and then everyone talks about potatoes, but a rise in potato prices doesn't mean there is a generalized rise in all prices.

cojones no le faltan.

Bad News: Saad is back in the cross-hairs

Saad Edn Ibrahim is my relative (by marriage: he is my father's wife's daughter's husband. I think that makes him a step brother-in-law). His history is interesting, and poignant.

Anyway, new problems have arisen. (Saad was released from Egyptian prison four years ago. He was held on trumped up charges for 14 months)

The state-controlled media is after him, which is a bad sign. When the newspapers stumble, the thought police rumble. Saad may go back to jail if he returns to Egypt.

Far from the public eye a drama is playing out that will have the utmost consequences for the Bush administration's goal of promoting democracy in the Middle East. The region's most prominent dissident, Egyptian sociologist Saad Edin Ibrahim, suddenly finds himself in a kind of perambulatory exile, hopping from conference to conference--in nine countries in the last three months. The one place he dare not go is home to Egypt because well-placed officials have warned him not to put himself within President Hosni Mubarak's grasp.

What has Mr. Ibrahim done to enrage President Mubarak? He has loudly advocated democracy in public writings, interviews with Western reporters, and, most unforgivably, in a face-to-face meeting with President Bush. As a result, members of Mr. Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party filed nine formal requests with the state prosecutor's office this summer for indictments against Mr. Ibrahim, for "damaging the state's economic interests" and even "treason." The state-run press has conducted a smear campaign against him.

Most recently, Egypt's largest paper, Al Ahram, carried a front-page editorial signed by Osama Saraya, its editor in chief, that branded Mr. Ibrahim an "agent" of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and a "criminal." Still more ominously, the author averred that Mr. Ibrahim had "repeated his old crime itself by giving false information to a foreign reader" to obscure "the environment of freedom and reform that Egypt lives in."

Saad is an optimistic guy. One of his central positions is that Islamic countries can, and should, vote. This op-ed is particularly passionate on this point.

(Nod to RL)

Universe to Greenspan: ZIP IT MISTER!!

Ex-Fed jefe Alan Greenspan has certainly put the "tire" in retirement in record time. He just won't shut up. He's ripping the Dems on trade, Bush on deficits, the Republican Congress on underfunded entitlements, talking about how "fear still grips" the markets, causally tossing out recession probabilities, endorsing a candidate in the IMF chief race, and has even offered up his opinions about attacking Iran. Holy Crap!

Bob Woodward in the throes of his man-crush labeled Al "the Maestro" but it seem clear that more accurate nicknames would be "the Narcissist" or "the Amnesiac".

Ben Bernanke is doing his best to clean up Greenspan's mess and is not publically laying anything at Alan's door. Paul Volcker left the Fed quietly without become an all purpose guru and stepping all over new appointee Greenspan. Apparently the Maestro believes neither in paying it forward nor the golden rule. On second thought he seems to believe in a modified golden rule: Do whatever you gotta do to get the gold!

I can't decide whether to urge people to boycott his book or just have everyone in the world buy a copy, so that maxed out Al can then just go away.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

HappeeEEE, Happy Birthday!

My birthday Sunday.

Got up and read the paper, had some coffee.

Took younger younger Munger to antique gun show.

Purchased (with some help from the in-laws; thanks!) a 1944 Mauser K-98.
Got a nice bayonet, and a fine leather sling for carrying.

Also, 40 rounds of Rumanian ammunition. The 8mm rifle shell looks like a small cannon shell instead of a large rifle bullet. I can't believe people fired these things in combat. Effective range of half a mile, with a good scope. That's EFFECTIVE range, mind you. The shell will travel three miles or more. Don't fire in the air.

Then we went to an all you can eat Chinese buffet, the height of elegant eating. At one point, the manager was peaking out the kitchen door at us. I thought he might offer us a discount if we would leave, but he gamely refilled all the steam trays that had gone empty.

Got home, had some of my favorite cake, which my wife makes once a year, on my birthday.

After this post, I am going to take a nap while pretending to watch the Panthers pretend to play football.

A most excellent birthday.

And, soon, in season: Bambi's mother is going down. The 8mm shell is likely to go clean through her (2400+ fps muzzle velocity, and a vertical drop of just over 1/4 inch at 100 yards). I'd hate to be cruel; she'll never feel a thing.

For what it's worth

The house across the street from us has been "for sale" for almost 18 months now, first with a realtor then by owner. I often treat Mrs. Angus to a morning rant about how it's not really for sale as the asking price is far above the market clearing price. I regale her with how they should simply put up a big sign saying "we're idiots" as it would make the situation much clearer to everyone.

In today's NYT, the ever-interesting Austan Goolsbee writes about this phenomenon:

ECONOMISTS and other humans don’t always see eye to eye. “Economists tend to think people are crazy because they won’t sell their houses for less than they paid for them — and people think economists are crazy for thinking things exactly like that,” said Professor Christopher Mayer, director of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia Business School and an authority on real estate economics.

With house prices falling in many markets around the nation, this particular quirk of the human psyche might end up costing the economy a great deal, Professor Mayer says.

Classical economics can’t explain this behavior. That’s because people who refuse to sell their houses for less than they paid for them are violating a cardinal rule of the market: stuff is worth what it’s worth. It doesn’t matter what you paid for it.

Mayer also has great advice for such loss averse people contemplating selling their upside down house:

“If you want to sell your house then you list it at the market price and you sell it,” he said. “If you don’t really want to sell then don’t put it on the market. But don’t say you want to sell and then set the price so high that you spend the year cleaning up every morning, having people walk through your living room and look in your medicine cabinets and reject you. That’s just painful — and expensive.”

And KPC would add, just put up the Idiots live here sign as a cheap substitute