Saturday, December 30, 2006

Reading Freakonomics cover to cover

It is so easy to read books in which the world view matches one's own. Nearly finished it in one day.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

If water was bananas

Due to the suddenness of the onset of drought, retail prices of water are expected to be up to 10 times greater than normal. Therefore the price for one thousand litres of drinking quality water will go up from an average of $1.20 to an estimated $12.00 per thousand litres. Just think about that for an average family of four who drink a litre of water each (+ dogs) that is nearly .8 of a cent a day just for drinking water! Add in the hygene necessities like washing and cleaning clothes that goes up to 5 cents a day! It is no wonder that people are fretting about the crisis. In a thirld world country droughts like this bring ruin and famine. Thankfully for us it just means spending a little less on our lifestyle this Christmas. Luxuries like watering the lawn for an hour will go up from $2 to about $20. Looks like another miserable summer with brown lawns again, except for the lucky rich. Thankfully, the higher water prices will make it worth while to truck in supplies from areas with plenty of water, or to pay rent on recent new pipelines.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

If bananas were water

Shortages of bananas would lead to harsher and harsher restrictions. Level 1 restrictions would mean we are only allowed to eat bananas on our allocated days based on odds and evens. Voluntary reductions would be encouraged and a "banana wise" campaign launched. By level three restrictions we would only be allowed to consume them at certain times on our allocated days. By this time, fines would be imposed on people eating them outside these times. These restrictions are important because although most bananas are eaten when people can do without, sometimes the nutrients obtained can be a matter of life and death.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


False economies:(. Having posted several times in the realclimate forum, I sense a culture, one feature of which is economic naivety. When anyone new posts, many forum contributors feel that you are either for them or against them. For a serious answer to a challenge, it seems that you have to structure it such that you take their "climate world view" as gospel for a starting point.
So far, my challenge to the scientists there to the scientific validity of attributing deaths due to weather events (demonstrably a chaotic system) to changes in climate remains unanswered. Causality is on tenuous ground here, unlike geologic temperature records, extreme weather event statistics are available for an infinitesmally small time period. It is impossible to know whether extreme weather events (drought,floods,hurricanes) are more or less prevalent in previous times of higher CO2 and temperatures. If ocean temperatures were deterministically generating them, they should be more easily forecast year by year using ocean thermometers than they are. It is entirely plausible that high enough temperatures may suppress more extreme events than are caused.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Could be as much as (enter own exaggeration)

This is one of the themes from Bjorn Lomborg's infamous book. It is not lying - It isn't even necessarily an exaggeration, but it encourages people to only talk about alarming figures that are at the far edge of expectations. It doesn't help that the media only reports the alarming "Coulds" and ignore the opposite (eg. any economist which states - there could actually be no net cost to the world due to global warming.) Basically, the outside chance of avertable complete global catastrophe should at least be considered against the possibility that global warming could prevent something that would otherwise cause complete global catastrophe. Basically, putting my scientist hat on, 1)we should concentrate the most on the middle of expectations, 2) note that global conflict, trade and other dynamics will greatly influence trend lines and 3) Make sure the myriad other environmental risks are given sufficient priority and scrutiny.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Banana Republic

Dr. Clam said...
Rereading your post reminds me- have you read Jared Diamond's "Collapse: How Societies Chose to Succeed or Fail" yet? Apparently both the Easter Islanders and the Norse colonists on Greenland began their precipitous slides toward disaster when they allowed banana imports from overseas. Amazing but true!

3:12 PM

Hence the term "Banana Republic" resonates true :). I kind of want to read the book, but I fear it is absolutely great on accurate history and makes grand points about the environment, but fails to abstract a technical theory from it. I feel that to apply what we learn from distinct (separate) cases from history, we have to abstract mathematical models (or at least game theory models) that explain what is happening. It is of absolutely no consequence if the author allows the reader to come to whatever conclusion they like such as - "That means we've got to stop killing whales, right?" or some general environmental platitude like: Lets dramatically subsidise renewable energy.

Without even reading the various examples in the book, I still think they correlate closely to the "tragedy of the commons". Game theory can be used to simulate those examples - then similarities can be compared to the modern world to see if certain fish stocks are going to become extinct, whether pollution is destined to keep increasing, whether drought in Africa is going to cause mass famine etc. EnviroGeometeorologists can predict future temperature rises all they like, but have they even thought of applying game theory to see how the reactions and/or competitive pressure and fears of disaster change the likely future. In a few short years, the world seems to have gone from a free for all for using resources as economy dictates, to a fractured world where fear in some has completely changed the resource economies, while the relatively resource poor have continued to demand them.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The unemployment rate is too goddam low!

As a business manager, I got used to the times when I would put an ad in the paper and you would interview a few people for a job. You would get one or two that you wondered why they didn't already have a job. Nowadays, just to get *one* applicant, I had to advertise higher than award rates; and the applicants are interviewing me! They have a list of current job offers and dictate their terms if I am interested to have the pleasure of their service. Businesses suffer in this way when the economy is going so well. It is of little comfort that you can more easily downsize when it is so hard to find and keep staff at all.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Schicksalstag 9/11

17th anniversary of Germany's "day of fate". So - How's the new world order going? Some of the wounds of WWII were healed, but the emergent uni-polar world has lost direction. The affluent peaceful lifestyle of the West is much more able to be held hostage by militarily insignificant actions. Threats from known enemies have given way to weasel attacks.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Where has that month gone

I've been so meaning to write things so often in the last few weeks, but I am having trouble keeping sane enough (if that makes any sense). Once, I did a whole post, proofread it and thought *What am I thinking; I can't write that!*. If you are interested, it was somewhat about the benefits of importing bananas to the local banana farmers, the benefits of eliminating tariffs on clothing for local manufacturers, and the necessity to marginal employees of banning unfair dismissal lawsuits.

Basically, in North Queensland, it is taboo to say that banana imports can lead to anything other than unmitigated disaster.

It is taboo also within the clothing industry, to say that there should be no protection from imports.

It is also taboo to think that unfair dismissal lawsuits hurt most the people it is designed to protect.

It is highly foolish of me to think I can make any headway into relaxing these taboos.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Environmental policy - Carbon trading good, reducing food miles bad

If you have doubts about the merits of carbon trading I suggest you read the following link selling hot air. Not only does it seem that greenhouse emissions trading is working to reduce emissions, but that the side benefit is increased energy prices in areas like Europe (which is further enabling further CO2 reductions), and a large transfer of associated money from the first world to the third world (albeit mainly China) on UN approved project of greenhouse emmission reduction. This brings me to the issue of reducing food miles. This always smacked to me of import restrictions by stealth, just like disease quarantine barriers to banana imports. I think that there should be as little restriction as possible on food imports, because these are critical to pull the third world out of poverty. Third world poverty is what will make them so much more susceptible to future natural disasters. Foreign aid is so paternalistic compared to opening of trade and migrant labour barriers.

Signing Kyoto seems also to be fairly meaningless, as it is being used as a reference line for Australia and the US which didn't sign it, and is being ignored if not flagrantly overrun by countries like Canada, which did.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Climate Change Again

Bringing this subject up again has been prompted by this Survey of the environment which seems to contradict its own previous conclusions of just a couple of years ago (especially re Lomborg conclusions). The survey has concluded that the precautionary principle should apply and has implied a lifting of carbon reduction priority in comparison with the Copenhagen Consensus. Part of this reasoning is that some forward predictors seem to be becoming more accurate. Also, some things that will probably reduce CO2 overall are potentially costless (with that I mean global Carbon trading *NOT* voluntary measures). I am a little disturbed that "the Economist" seems to have taken up the paradigm of the environmental scientists and seem to have forgotten that there is more to making the world a better place than stopping global warming.

Anyway, I just wanted to clear up that the reason I, as an individual disagree with voluntary reductions for the benefit of the environment. It is thus: The "net" result of an individual taking the trouble to reduce say fossil fuel usage is not the associated reduction in usage due to market factors. In practice, the non-use of a resource, means that there is more for "someone else" to use. Me using less water during a drought means that there is less pressure for everyone else to use less water. Net result: I needn't have bothered putting myself out. The costs of voluntary reductions are real, substantial, but invisible. 99 times out of a hundred the net result seems positive, but the reduced demand gives an equal and opposite reaction that reduces the price of the resource such that the net usage is the same as it would have been without the measures. If you can understand the crux of the argument - this is why I rail against the promotion of selflessness and voluntary reduction measures. It is a huge exercise in self-congratulation and kidding oneself.

On Carbon trading however, even though I don't see much point in the environmental priority of it but there is one HUGE plus with global carbon trading. People will see that "Globalisation" is a force for good. Trade of EVERYTHING should be global, including carbon emmissions.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Rail against brand snobbery

There has been several experiences within the sales team at Cueldee where local schools or businesses have pretty much disrespected our local, family oriented business, while heaping praise on big-name competing brand(s) such as Kombat, Canterbury, Peerless etc. Now, this is perfectly understandable coming from someone from a metropolitan area far away, but it kind of bites when it comes from a teacher at a school I've been a student at, or where my children attend. I have also seen this kind of brand snobbery coming from other local business owners.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Self-defeating prediction

I am confidently predicting that on this day in 2008, the price of petrol will be under $1.00 Au per litre in Townsville. Much against the alarmists which talk about the end of big oil etc. etc., it seems to me the world will be drowning in the stuff soon enough. From an economic perspective, as is the way with these things, the price has severely overshot its long term natural level. Refining capacity, oil stocks and strategic reserves are building much faster than usage is increasing. Once this process has caught up to the surprise surge in demand, even a slight flattening of this surge will result in big drops in the oil price. My speculation is relying on my theory that the whole thing has been triggered by a demographic "one off" in China. The dependancy rate there has become extremely low and is still dropping. This rate will suddenly turn and increase sharply, never to get anywhere near as low again. This is due to happen within the next couple of years, and the flow-on effects will particularly influence investment markedly. I titled this entry self-defeating because if all oil investors read this and agreed with me, they would cut back investment now and my prediction would never come true.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

11th September, five years on

Damn right I remember what I was doing when it happened. I was just snoozing off as was my habit at that time, while Kylie would watch her various shows, channel surfing in the ads. All of a sudden, she woke me up to tell me an aeroplane had hit the world trade centre. My very first reaction was "Terrorists!". Now to explain, I had never thought of the World Trade Centre at that point as those really tall buildings in New York, but that place those islamist terrorists tried to destroy back in the 90's. I also had remembered that one of those arrested had boasted that it would be knocked over the next time. More to the point, I dragged myself to the TV and had the surreal situation of seeing the second plane hitting live. The main relevant knowledge I had of skyscrapers is that once one floor collapses, it starts a chain reaction that brings the whole building down. I was quite relieved that the initial explosions hadn't achieved that, but the flames and smoke were not dying down and were getting worse. Somewhere along the line I started to think about how my life was going to change. I cursed that I probably wouldn't get to sleep much and that those lucky sods who were already asleep would get a good night's sleep before realising that the world had changed forever. I thought about it longer and I realised that my life probably wouldn't change *that* much being in Australia. I pondered the Geopolitical significance, and my spin on it was that Al Queda was wanting to provoke a hugely disproportionate response from the US - ie. one that would make the US look like the *really* bad guys. Extrapolating from this, I figured Al Queda would have pretty much abandoned its operations in Afghanistan and moved to various other places as far as terrorist training went. I hoped in a sense that the response wouldn't be disproportionate and that the moral advantages of being the victim could propel the US to achieve diplomatic goals. I feared that one way or another, Al Queda would get their wish and have the US eventually look like the immoral, violent entity it wanted to portray. It took a lot longer than I anticipated, but it has gone full circle and now even former staunch supporters of the war agains Iraq (such as "The Economist") are demonstrating despair at the current state of affairs due to the war. I feel that what is in reality a medium term stalemate in the middle east, is ever so slowly inching towards the conditions required for progress towards stability.
Back to the date in question, I have since noticed a subtle divide between people that saw the event live and those that woke up to it in the morning. While on the night in question I thought of it as a curse to witness the horror live with confused and chaotic commentary. However in reality, after a few days I realised that seeing a moment in history unfold was a little like seeing man walk on the moon, but without advance knowledge, the witnessing of it came down to pure chance in this case. Having known about it in the morning when I woke up, I didn't tell my brother about it when I saw him at 6:00 am in the morning. He did not find out for more than a couple of hours. I thought I was doing him a favour by keeping him innocent for as long as possible, but he was still mad at me about it a full year later. As was my good friend Sandor who probably unfairly expected me to call him and wake him up so he could have also witnessed it live.

You Are 20% Addicted to Blogthings

You're either a Blogthings newbie - or you haven't been sucked in... yet!
Right now, you're at low risk for addiction.
But we'll make sure and change that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

1987-1988 Itinerary

click to enlarge
While tidying up looking for old stuff came across this itinerary. I still haven't worked out where all the old photos are though.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


My eldest daughter recently competed in her first Westpac Mathematics competition late last month. Of course this is very exciting for me, as just recently, she had got 100% in a maths exam, putting her at the top of her class. She has since been put into the group A maths class, such that she is now studying with the other top maths students. The results for the WMC take forever to come back, but I was talking to her and I am not so sure she shares my excitement. She tells me that she actually hates maths classes, and the only reason she entered the maths competition was that she got to miss out on some other lessons she didn't like hmmm.. Anyway, I'm not going to get my hopes up too high. I am proud of her no matter her results. Next year all my kids will enter.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What Australia Can do to progress the middle east situation

I promised I would actually put something down along these lines, but it is quite difficult to get all of my thoughts straight. So I'll try to put something in point form.

* As a small country, and not say the leader of the free world, it is not what we do per se that makes the most difference, but the example we display.

* Our actions around the Pacific are the main thrust of this. We have shown the right way to involve our military. We have made our forces extremely accessible in situations in the Solomons, East Timor, Bougainville, Aceh, Bali, PNG just to name a few, and most importantly, have not placed any conditions and have asked for practically nothing in return.

* In the Middle East, we have punched well above our weight. We were pretty much bound to act alongside the US for the most part, however. For a long time, we have had way less fatalities and accidents than the norm. Partly, this is because our forces tend to attract less attention, and they tend to be more specialised.

* Things like knowing Arabic language, being more disciplined than the Americans, showing compassion for the ordinary citizen rather than complete fear of everyone amongst them. These are attributes which would make a helpful example to others.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Yes, build it up higher! (the Burdekin dam that is)

The one minor consolation that I got from the sad news that no hydro station was being built up in the rainforest mountains up north, was that the environmental groups acceded that the Burdekin Dam stage two should be used for hydro instead. There apparently is less ecologically important land to be flooded. The only thing was that the extra storage capacity entailed was way overkill, and even the storage as it is was a resource waiting for possible extra uses. It has been handy for water security here in Townsville of course. It seems that with the talk of South East Queensland wanting a pipeline for their water security, stage 2 is becoming much more likely. Of course, the Burdekin is a river where siltation is a big long term problem compared to the rainforest areas, but by the time the pipeline is built, hydro will almost certainly be part of the deal anyway (to power the pumps?) together with all its carbon credits and peak loading power supply advantages. The possible problems with this vision? Pipeline cost may be in the billions of dollars.

Monday, July 24, 2006


The Iranian government, after supplying, bankrolling and otherwise funding Hezbollah, isn't exactly bravely entering the conflict in its own right. Instead, it offers safe haven for its leaders (and presumably other Iranians who might be in Lebanon), a steady flow of money and arms when they are required, and trained and ready suicide bombers or access to terrorist training.
Like-wise Israel, knowing full well that the real problem lies over the border in Syria and Iran, is mercilessly targeting Lebanon, even letting its own citizens think that it is hitting at the root cause of their problem. Attacks that might engage enemy states don't even seem to be on the table. Even an accidental foray or an empty threat to those countries would more effectively engage them. Fear (or cowardice) seems to make this a path they won't take.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Is it good for the democratic pincer movement?

Looking back st my Januarydemocracy in palestine post, my model would dictate that an economically destitute Lebanon would be bad for its democracy in the medium term. This would entrench the non-democratic regimes of sponsoring neighbours for a while, making a greater satan, little satan steamroller more effective than constant democratic pressure from their own citizens for regime change.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine

I feel it would be remiss of me not to revisit my opinions on the middle-east given recent escalation.

1) There was a point in time with quite a bit of optimism on three fronts - Democracy in Palestine and Iraq, Syria pulling troops out of Lebanon, and Australia and Japan working together in Iraq. Well as I expected, democratic palestine is as hopeless as totalitarian palestine, Syria pulling out of Lebanon was almost completely useless without a disarming of Hezbollah, and Japan took the opportunity to pull out at about the time we were harrassing them about the Whales (I don't believe in co-incidences). However, the current blood-thirst and chaos in Lebanon is making Iraq look stable, secure and connected to the outside world in comparison, as well as democratic.

2) This Israeli escalation is not indicative of an overall escalation, as Arab forces that were to attack in Iraq will be diverted to attack in Israel and surrounds.

3) Syria and Iran may become more vulnerable to attack, and the diplomatic cost of doing so seems to have lessened.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


A recent decline and death of a very old relative has again got me asking questions about the morality and details of euthanasia. Some careful but private observations about this particular case has answered some for me.
1. If you were a doctor in a similar position to make decisions, would you make the same decisions? Yes, I probably would.
2. Do you consider the treatments completely legal? Yes. Everything was done by the book for palliative care.
3. Do you consider the treatment observed of very ill elderly patients as moral? No. It seems to me that most decisions were most likely to hasten decline rather than extend a comfortable but bed-ridden life. If these decisions were made on a much younger patient with the same ailments, at the minimum the doctors would be guilty of gross negligence, if not murder.

The real question is why I am satisfied at a system that gives the doctors power over life and death like this? This is basically because of limited resources and priority to use them. Also there are diminishing returns with the very elderly. Hastening death in declining patients leaves more beds and resources for patients with better long term prospects, like people my age. This is why I will refuse to go to hospital when I am old.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The sentient beings of Proxima Centauri are laughing at us

In their Hydrogen powered 'lighter than air' aircraft while we here start to worry about
Aircraft Emmissions of the CO2 sort. We are constantly thinking of ways to use Hydrogen on the ground, but still have the taboo against Hydrogen power+levitation of the air. This is singularly attributable to the Hindenberg. Similarly, Hydro power is also taboo at least for green groups that spent decades fighting against them. What green group would suddenly turn araound and say, gee.. if we consider the carbon credits, maybe Gordon-Franklin wasn't such a bad idea! If the first hydrogen powered bus crashed and burst into flames, would we never consider hydrogen power for road vehicles again?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thermodynamics - It's more than just a good idea. It's the LAW

I do think that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is one of the fundamental rules of the universe. In some ways it defines the direction of time. Other fundamental rules (such as the first law) and laws of relativity and gravity distort perceptions and models of time. In some ways I don't really want to get into the mathematics of it all as to whether it excludes a continually existing universe. I can either take the cosmologists word for it that they have done their science right and accept what they come up with as a consensus, or I can just latch on to whatever dissenting view there is and claim the question as an unknowable.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

So, what about Geothermal energy

Well, it's a pretty handy power supply. Already now it is being used in the most favourable locations (geothermal vents + cold weather which hot water can be used for heating and greater temperature differential for power generation). I can only surmise that it will grow as a proportion of energy sources. But it really will follow a trend of all power sources, surmised as follows:

Hey, gee it's windy here -> Let's build some wind farms.
By golly there's a lot of cheap sugar source here -> lets make ethanol fuel.
Gee there's three spectacular gorges here -> let's build some hydroelectric dams.
Hey we're near the equator and near some deep water -> lets build some ocean thermal differential power-stations/desalinators/cold water airconditioners.
Does the sun ever stop here? -> Let's build some big solar power generators.

Already, service stations have to supply auto-gas, unleaded, diesel, ethanol blends etc. They will just have to make more options.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's not global warming

It's civilization's practice run for the rare but certain future catastrophic events. A warm-up run if you like. If we can't handle everything that global warming throws at us, how can we ever hope to cope with the next asteroid strike etc.

It's like my previous post. If we're too afraid to get ourselves embroiled in local minor conflicts, how are we ever going to cope with the big ones.

I think this is the strongest argument for listening to young Bjorn and lower our priority of counteracting greenhouse gases over other environmental concerns. Unless of course that means we won't build any more hydro or nuclear power stations :)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lonely sherrif

Policing the pacific is something Australia is doing well. I would argue that it isn't really costing us in the long term. What better possible training can an army get than policing a small neighbouring country. Relatively moderate risk operations like this mean that almost all of our army (including reserves) has experience in overseas conflict situations. Neighbouring Asia/Pacific countries' armies/police end up further and further behind in their deployment effectiveness as they continue to refuse to give any more than token help. Money invested in such neighbourly peacekeeping deployment is extremely well spent. Australia's army recruitment is working in overdrive again and plenty of ordinary people are tempted to join.

I unashamedly prefer Hydro-electric power

The simplicity, permanence, renewable status and engineering advantages at economically suitable locations speak for themselves. The environmental "costs" are all one off's.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Happy Environment day or whatever

Planet Ark made a series of statements on the Sunrise show that separately are based on current conclusions from environmental researchers; but balance any against another brings either contradiction or super-optimism in ad-hoc choices. For instance, in adjacent sentences he mentions global warming as the highest priority to address, then suggests that gas power stations are a better next step than nuclear. If global warming really was the highest priority, his next sentence does not follow from the last. Later, he states that Australia should sign on to the Kyoto protocol, yet if it is binding, drastic unpopular measures may or may not be required which environmentalists are loth to take credit for if other environmental factors are played off (eg nuclear,hydro,wilderness encroachment) Last he states that Hydrogen will be the future energy format. As usual, environmentalists lean on "the devil they don't know" as the panacea. In the past Nuclear was touted in its infancy as a clean fuel. Wind farms and tidal energy are already falling foul of green groups when their issues become discovered as they become large scale. Large scale Hydrogen fuel infrastructure will certainly be seen as environmentally damaging if it ever happens. Plus it denies the certainty of severe fragmentation of the energy industry, with horses for courses energy and all formats considered, started and continued without the ending of others.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I Blog because nobody listens

I just want to say what a great game of beach volleyball I had on thursday. It was the third last game that I will have for a long time. It has been over 6 years that me and Sandor have been faithfully playing week after week. This last game we had some very memorable rallies, including one "Impossible" hit that I made on the third shot after a second that hit the net and fell straight down. Somehow, I punched it with some topspin and it curved over the net beautifully from practically ground level with a dive. We lost the point eventually, but I feel our fighting spirit demoralised them.

Friday, June 02, 2006

MYOB and CBA have colluded uncompetitively

For 18 years now, I have used and loved the accounting package MYOB (Mind Your Own Business), and in the last two years have used their so-called M-Powered services. These pay-per-use services allowed our business to accept payment methods such as BPAY, @Post billpay etc., with the supplied software generating the required numbers. However, to use this service, we essentially were forced to open up merchant services with the CBA (Commonwealth Bank of Australia) for the virtual EFTPOS terminal which does the back end clearance of funds. Now this would be all well and good if the CBA charged at about the market rate. They don't - their fees are well above the rates I got offered by another bank for doing the back end stuff. The problem is, the absolute most basic things that MYOB software would have to do to make it easy to change banks, they refuse. They have intellectual property rights on the generation of the check digit generation code they use for the Customer reference numbers, so they cannot be used with any other bank. Basically, the software company and the bank are colluding to keep their charges higher than the market would dictate. One thing that I hate more than being ripped off is anti-competitive behaviour. I would recommend people to avoid M-Powered services, and arrange biller BPAY services directly with the bank, and find ways to enbed Customer Reference numbers within each customer's details with whatever accounting software is available. After several days of effort I am finding ways around this fortress, and can generate my own CRN's and sooner or later I can tell MYOB and CBA to stick it, and perhaps help others to do the same.

Update September 06 - They have improved slightly their (CBA) fees which is already a help, especially for large payments. However, MYOB fees of $2.00 per transaction is still highway robbery given that we are talking essentially about electronic transactions. Any non-electronic aspects of these transactions are extremely minimal. The fact is, that reducing these per-transaction fees, they would actually make more money because businesses would more readily join this fairly easy to set up and maintain process. A level of about $1.00 per transaction may even get me back to actually praising MYOB again, and consider using this service also.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

If you want to reduce food miles, tax the food truck

I don't believe local food markets reduce the environmental burden of bringing food to our plate, although it may well be healthier and a good social outing. My back of the envelope calculations are that if there is less food to carry, the extra energy will be used bringing fertilizer for the local growers; extra fuel for the people who make a special trip to the food market etc. Infact, it really is impossible to tell whether it makes any difference, but it sure makes everybody feel better about it. Being pro-active doesn't require proof that it is making any difference. Contrast this to a simple carbon tax. Everyone gets punished or rewarded depending on how much they use/save. It is all proportional. Put the carbon tax high enough and the food markets will generate themselves if they really do reduce CO2 emmissions.

Does the carbon tax then give an overall burden on the economy? Not if there is no exemptions. The money that goes to the Government can be used for whatever purpose we feel necessary. If there are exemptions, the exempt will have more options and more incentive to consume carbon, and more of it available because the non-exempt are saving it for them.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Answer - Smaller "NIMBY" footprint!!!

AHA. So what was the question? Why would a green-ly inclined Premier build a desalination plant in Sydney? The alternative of another dam involves incalculable number of "Not In My Back Yard" ers. The other answer is how the "culled" trees get treated. For general expansion of Sydney all trees are killed humanely (ie. chopped down quickly) and the animals which relied on those native trees could move on (a bit like the early settlers thought about aboriginals). With a dam being built, the imagination is that basically everything gets drowned - a slow and painful death.

This is also why Hydro-electric schemes get fought tooth and nail by environmentalists, despite the incredible number of carbon credits over a number of centuries of likely operation. Meanwhile, fossil fuel powered schemes just find an existing industrial complex to attach themselves to WITHOUT A SINGLE PROTESTER!
ACT LOCALLY - yeah right, as long as no big ugly dam, wind turbine, solar generation stack, farm etc. doesn't end up in my back yard!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

When I lost Faith in all environmental activists

It was in third year University, at the refectory, watching a debate about a hydro-electric dam proposal somewhere in North Queensland. My primary interest was that because it was the World's most popular and effective type of renewable energy, we may turn the corner and have a bias towards these type of projects and away from coal and gas powered stations. I was sadly mistaken. The local environmental speakers pointed out that we should be reducing demand by using less electricity in the home by turning off lights etc. etc. and not building new power stations (oh yeah, and not needing them anyway). The scheme was shelved - Not one single hydro power project has been built in NQ. Several gas power stations have been built. Coal fired stations that had been out of commission for years were re-started. Meanwhile, electricity demand has increased steadily by about 8% per year. Since that time I would estimate our (NQ) CO2 emmissions have doubled. Meanwhile at the university, virgin wilderness surrounding it has been built on for new accommodation and general expansion. Surely the environmental activist movement could have picked a different project to pick their fight on. Environmental activists are still aiding fights against wind farms, tidal energy projects and the list goes on. Any project that is "big" and "new" is automatically seen as bad and fought tooth and nail - but the gradual but certain expansion of existing facilities is completely ignored.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Evil market-distorting subsidies come good - Exception that proves the rule

The amazing force for good that high petrol prices have shown to be, even made a previously insanely counterproductive Brazilian ethanol subsidy almost return a break even after all those years of being a junk bond investment. High petrol prices also help our sugar farmers, only due to the Brazilian swing production status which connects the two. The advent of carbon trading has made Uranium more financially desirable. It is time to make a global pollution emissions trading system. Radiation emissions/waste products trading for instance, should be trialled to counter the "carbon bias" of current environmental regimes. Nasty coercive regulation should be contrasted with "minimum necessary regulation" which is better than self-regulation or free for all. Flexible regulation involving trading of the "commons" resource is good if it can prevent the tragedy of the commons, which is what we should be fearing. Technologies that "can" save the world are useless if there is no individual incentive to research and apply them.

evildrclam says:Hooray for rising petrol prices! Rising petrol prices are a much better engine to drive the development of sustainable energy resources than nasty coercive regulation or evil market-distorting subsidies: rising prices focus pressure precisely where it is most needed, while government intervention spreads the burden with majestic impartiality over the just and the unjust alike...

'The rain it falleth on the just, and also on the unjust fellow;
But chiefly on the just, because, the unjust steals the just's umbrella.'

And, I am doing the responsible thing what you told me to, and reading the Skeptical Environmentalist. This means that sooner or later I will have to go to the trouble of constructing a great big post pointing out the errors in sites pointing out the errors in discussions of Bjorn's pointing out the errors in speeches of Al Gore's... Curses!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Is there really an alternative to price gouging?

The howls from people complaining about higher petrol prices around easter are getting very annoying. If there is an increased demand prices will go up. The alternatives may always involve either queues, rationing, or high and/or highly unpredictable public finance cost. The only exception is when there is supply side collusion where there are no obvious other supply/demand constraints. Why is there not an outcry with highly fluctuating fruit/vege prices? Is anyone complaining about the extremely high profits being made by some lucky banana farmers in Mareeba?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Live by the sword - go ahead

The US seems to have countered Iran's policy of "We're not building any nuclear bombs" with "Oh, we're not going to attack with nuclear bunker-buster bombs". Will the bad cop get results where the good cop of Europe etc. didn't? It is nice to have both cops fully operational for once. This is a real upping of the ante one way or another.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Invisible argument

So, the new IR laws went active over the last few weeks, to the howls of employee advocacy groups everywhere. Lo and behold, unemployment rates hit *30 YEAR LOWS*. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!! I cannot believe the pace at which competing businesses to mine switched from a policy of "import where possible" to "employ where possible", citing reduced fears of employing people. What is more important? Individual instances of employee disgruntlement (be it the number of them), or the number of people having jobs that want jobs. Nobody is counting the former, just blaming them on the laws, and the latter is finding new highs. Unemployment rate of 5% was laughed at just a few years ago. Latest statistics should be mindblowing if anybody was actually looking at them rather than saying - Statistics always lie - or something like that.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Does not play well with others :-(

I am struggling with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on my youngest boy Zac. We casually dismissed thoughts of him being autistic until his first week in Kindy. If he had have been born 40 days later than he had been, he wouldn't even be in kindy until next year. However, his behaviour in a group setting has stuck out as being the odd one out. Stuff like lying on his back facing the other way while everybody else dances to the wiggles music, climbing adventurously by himself while everybody else is doing an outside group activity. Reacting to instructions of a change in activity by screaming (loud). Talking in gestures and single words rather than sentences. We just thought he was a little bit behind and a little younger than the others, but the other evidence is starting to become a little compelling.
The thing that is frustrating me the most is that the diagnosis was rather forced on to us by what I can only describe as special education economics. Every diagnosis of ASD is a ticket for more funding for the Kindy, special education units, parents etc. If I could have helped it, I would have avoided the diagnosis because it does come with so many attachments, including possible stigma. However, denying the diagnosis would have denied him and us the best possible outcomes and supports. I am struggling with this whole concept. Ten years ago, there would have not been this kind of economic push for a diagnosis.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Devine's Intervention

This Sydney article - Enough whingeing by Miranda Devine has created quite a stir in NQ. It is basically an opinion piece based on a selective scan of articles which were themselves selective in looking for the few negative feelings out there. There is no whingeing going on at all. The quotes come from people at their lowest point having barely spared with their lives, but newly destitute. I hope Miranda catches a rare disease that could have been easily prevented with nutrients available only in avocadoes and bananas! That would be Devine Justice.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Contrast Hurricane Katrina with Cyclone Larry - discuss

Mayor of New Orleans "Hey mr President we need some help". Bush - "We've got a whole army with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan - they can come in overnight, guns blazing". Mayor - "aah, give me a few days". Bush - "What! To think about it". Mayor - "No - We'll need to wait until they REALLY get desparate so they'll take any help they can get"

Mayor of Innisfail - "Johnny, Pete, we need help". Howard - "Well, we've got this army unit in Townsville with experience in rebuilding East Timor, Banda Aceh and Kashmir. It costs just as much for them to do nothing, but they'd rather do something useful again." Mayor - "but you're always at the Games watching the Netball, who's going to lead the effort?". Premier Beattie - "Me - Or maybe I should look for someone better?"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Don't do it for yourself - do it for the children!

I know selfish interests may come into it. Wanting bananas to be available in the shop, have them at a reasonable price, and wanting to help Innisfail get back on its feet. But think of the hundreds of thousands of children in Australia that rely on the humble banana for sustenance! It is one of the few "fruits" in existence that have quantities of all necessary vitamins. By refusing imports we deny these children healthy meals for several months. I know we could ration them out or let prices skyrocket such that the desparate can still get the local product, pricing everyone else out of the market, but surely there is a better way. Banana growing families in the Phillippines (etc.) need to feed their children as well. Wouldn't it be better to buy their bananas at this stage rather than doling out aid?

THINK OF ALL THE CHILDREN - Free trade in bananas can help them all!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We need free trade in Bananas NOW!

Now that our entire Australian Cavendish banana crop is out of commission, can we buy Philippine bananas please?!!! I'm sure that in other years they'll be yearning for ours because of their own cyclone disasters. As Howard said to Bush's offer of money- we don't need the money but just make it as quick and easy as possible for us to buy the things we need. FREE TRADE RULES!



Sunday, March 19, 2006

Larry's coming over and he's bringing us a flood apparently

Looks like the cyclone is going to bring us here in Townsville the rain without much of the wind. I suspect flooding rain, cut roads, power outages, trees down. Should rival the flood of 98 (night of Noah floods) if the reading of the fabled cactus flowers (made a week ago incidentally) are anything to go by.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dismal scientific world view

It was useful to my own self-analysis to compare a scientific world view to a religious world view. I tend to slip into an Economic world view often enough to confuse any philosophical argument. Economics is often labelled (even by economists) the "dismal science" in the sense that broad approximations have to be made with any model, and this leaves it open to the type of criticisms which just wouldn't fly with any other science. The more complex the model, the more useful it can be, but the less likely a lay person can understand it enough to agree with it. Thus people's concept of an economy in some circumstances, can be completely wrong because of the model used.

Thus the same concept I have for a world view. Religions as various models describe reality imperfectly but usefully. So what of my (non)belief in God? What, if not God is tracking the absolute morality which I believe exists regardless of people believing it exists? Well, an all-seeing God is useful but imperfect model therefore.

Monday, March 13, 2006

What I've been doing

I haven't posted for a while and it has been mainly other obsessions keeping me busy. Generally, my philosophy is to put this kind of thing in my sidebar and save the main area for philosophical discussions/wars. I'll get to that. I've been playing correspondence chess as a beta tester on ChesSos, which has been taking up most of my idle net time. I've been reading this book "America - the book" - a citizen's guide to democracy inaction - Very, very funny and also somewhat educational to someone who wasn't brought up on US history. I've also busied myself with worrying about work - to little avail. Even less work (or leisure for that matter) gets done until the object of worry gets improved.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Survival strategies

Evidence 1 :- A plant's seed whose pod can float in water for months, lies dormant for years until conditions that are just right precipitate germination. To a scientist, it is evidence of survival strategy. A plant can colonise a new area far away from its original base.

Evidence 2 :- A bacterium or other organism can withstand being frozen in a vacuum indefinitely until jolted back into life when it hits, say a planet. To a scientist this is irrelevant detail and doesn't indicate that certain bacteria have evolved this feature so they can go planet-hopping when major collisions happen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Origins of life on Earth

I find this Economist article on the Origins of life a fair bit presumptuous. One critical assumption is that no frozen or otherwise DNA infected organisms existed amongst the rocks, dust and gases of the solar system to begin with. This leaves the problem of how DNA originated to some other environment much more conducive perhaps. The only other questions remains on how DNA spread to our solar system and otherwise around our galaxy. This I find more easily explainable than the hodgepodge of theories of how "breakout" happened. And again I see this background of subliminal thinking of having to move "up" from ooze to amino acids to proteins to RNA to DNA etc. as another ladder rather than a "bush". Other non-life chemicals formed will surely have an influence on the life there.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Just as I was talking about democracy and Islam

The Economist comes up with this article regarding democracy and Islam. Needless to say, I was just saying that.

The point is, I believe it much more likely that a "Pax Islam" will come about via the back door as a treaty between democratic Islamic based countries rather than the front door of Iran's theocracy taking the lead and other nearby countries making some kind of islamic (Warsaw like) pact to be part of an expanded theocracy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ha.. Ha.. - Hamas

Does the election of Hamas make a difference to peace prospects in Israel? My answer - No. What is happening in Syria and Iran is a lot more relevant as they still control the "spoiler" influence on Palestine. Israel and Palestine could be led by the dalai llama and it wouldn't make a difference. However, Palestine and Israel are part of this democratic pincer movement I have been theorising, that is isolating and surrounding Iran and Syria.

The battles to entrench democracy in the middle east is real "war" all the rest is bluff, bluster, isolated sacrifices, posturing, marginal threats and zealous journalism.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Deep in the Weeds

There has been blanket advertising on TV up here in Townsville of an emerging weed threat of Mimosa Pigra. I have realised that this weed has been gradually spreading around my "lawn" (more like a meadow, the way I maintain it) since late 1998. Presumably the seeds from these would have washed their way downstream towards the river. Asking around, this plant has been around Townsville in various patches for decades. I just wonder if we are already too late?

Mimosa flowers, normally pink - turned yellow by the highly alkaline clay soil in my front yard.
leaves before being touched
Touch-sensitive leaves now tucked away.

Note that these plants develop nasty thorns, and can grow into inpenetrable thickets metres high. They love our tropical climate, and have already laid claim to large swathes of the Northern Territory (more than NT's aboriginals :-)) In fact they should be renamed "Old man death"

Friday, January 06, 2006

Because Geologists and miners should be environ-mental-ly conscious

This was taken from a 1998 Readers digest "joke" as in things that you will never see on a t-shirt! It works well in my skeptically environmentalist way.

This link to bid or buy now for your own shirt!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What "ought" to be done about Townsville's heat

There was this great research and pilot scheme done for a system of taking cold waters from the deep (4 degrees C) and using the temperature differential with shallow tropical water to generate electricity. The pilot scheme (in Hawaii) showed reasonable effectiveness in generating electricity, but also a great many other uses for the cold water. For instance, pumping cold water through underground pipes under crops to improve their productivity, and using the cold water for air-conditioning. My "scheme" for Townsville would be a simple heat exchange for the water already being pumped to all the houses. The salt water would cool a hunk of metal, and the purified dam water would be cooled significantly by the metal, and the cold water being distributed to the whole city would cool everything down. The main problem with Townsville as I understand it is that there is no deep water nearby. The water would have to be piped in from a hundred kilometers away. This shouldn't really be a problem though - we are piping in gas from further than that for electrical generation. Once the initial "cold water" scheme is shown to be successful, all sorts of applications will become obvious, as well as generating electricity. And the considerable advantage over electrical air-conditioning is that there is a net reduction in heat.

Monday, January 02, 2006

"Darwinism" as a staircase

The front cover of the economist christmas edition shows the classical subliminal message that human evolution is about progress up the ladder (staircase in this case). Although the actual article does rail against the popular concept of "survival of the fittest" because it completely mis-states the reality; it does mention such things as "progress", "great leap forward" as scientific concepts of what was happening at various stages. Genetic palaentology has been able to put accurate dates on common ancestry, which is really illuminating. Great science is happening, but darwinism as a popular ideology doesn't require it. To remain popular, Darwinism must still place humans on a pedestal above other living things. This is to replace the "specialness" that is given to humans in various religions. Because, in general, Darwinists profess to be non-religious, why should they care what happens to the human race if we are not special or superior to animals?