Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yuan for the money?

My latest read of the Economist had a particularly disturbing but compelling argument that it is only a matter of time before the Yuan will be the Worlds reserve currency. The article describes it as an overdue change, although I get the impression that it is not desirable, but inevitable and the alternatives eventually being virtually disastrous. I don't like it, but I realize now that it will probably happen, maybe before 2020. My preference is of course the Aussie dollar, but the chances are quite remote.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Enough with the sneaker net already!

I don't really know where I was going with this link but I thought it about time that I mentioned where I felt communications were up to in Australia. I have this feeling that so much of our effort of day to day life is working an elaborate sneaker net of information. All too often it isn't enough to send a picture, sound or video, and one must bring the object to the person or vice versa, just as in the old days we needed to save something to disk to move it to another computer. The more everything gets connected, the less this has to happen, although I think that shirts that can be screen printed by remote are a long way away yet.

There appears to be a fierce level of competition between carriers in the mobile Internet arena, and a bit of a lack of service in the adsl+ department. The NBN seems to have progressed to a level where even a sudden change of Government would find it hard to reverse the general gist of the new structure being formed in the industry. I believe that not only the current wireless competitive environment, but the future fixed broadband environment will also be fiercely competitive. The main scope for future differentiation between brands will be overall service, how plans will combine with other related comms, and total monthly data plans as before. Speed will be even less of an issue than it is now. There is virtually no chance that either the NBN co. will struggle to make ends meet, nor that the investment made by taxpayers will cause Australia to approach European US or Japanese levels of public debt levels.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nice Hung Parliament

It appears to me that rather than the country independents having the balance of power and being the most important block of votes, it seems that every single person in parliament has been elevated in importance to the point of being almost as important as the Prime Minister or Opposition leader. One strand of evidence is that no matter how egregious Wassisname's usage of a Union credit card was, he has been afforded a sort of cabinet protection from dismissal as strong as it would be for the PM.

Something similar is happening to the Liberals in that every sitting member has been more obliged than ever to take a disciplined part in the voting process to take advantage of any slip-ups by the government to try to force an early election or embarassing backflip on policy.

With the Boat people issue, I feel that the populist "tough" approach has shown itself to be completely dependent on context. When boat-people are imagined as a *group* the populist notion is that they are undeserving and cheating the system. As soon as they are individualised and humanised (for instance, unaccompanied children), the populist notion flips to an assumption of innocence ie. that they should be processed *TO* decide whether they are deserving of refugee status. These are contradicting views, and a large section of the population holds them simultaneously. No law can preemptively and correctly act under these expectations. Constantly changing the laws, or even talking seriously about changing the laws keeps people smugglers on their toes without necessarily prejudicing the individual cases - Therefore a series of backflips on policy is the perfect policy in itself - especially if the overall refugee intake is allowed to increase from our dismally low quotas.

As far as the Carbon Tax is concerned, I am glad it is going through in spite it being one of the least popular policies I could ever imagine making it through *ANY* parliament. I think once it is in there it will be shown to be no more distorting or painful than the GST, with a lot less red tape for the average individual or business.

I do think it unfortunate that the Carbon Tax will get the blame for electricity price increases, when the reality is that it is the fault of exorbitant feed-in tariffs combined with the uncertainty of infrastructure expenditure that will be incurred due to the revised architecture of energy transfers required.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tennis dates

Can anyone tell me the last two times and cities an Australian has won a Grand slam singles title?

September 11th 2011, New York.
September 9th 2001, New York.

No-one in the news has mentioned the irony in this.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stuff I may not have published about my experience of 11/9/01

- In August of that year I had suffered a nervous breakdown which became completely reset after 911.
- I was in complete denial and I tried to go back to bed to try to convince myself it was all a bad dream.
- I was jealous of those who slept through it and got many hours extra of the world being a nicer place. In hindsight, it was probably a moot point.
- I remember taking my two oldest children to swimming very early the next morning. They were 8 and 5 at the time and I would take them to the local pool where my brother would give them swimming lessons for an hour or so, while I dropped in to work. I asked him if he listened to the radio, which he didn't (who doesn't listen to the radio in the car???), so instead of telling him about 911 I thought my gift to him would be another couple of hours of not knowing. He has not forgiven me for it.
-Sandor was also angry at me for not ringing him when it happened.
-I made various predictions about the future of the world, none of which I wrote down. However, one of those was that the next megaterrorist attack would be timed for the 10th anniversary. I figured it wouldn't be in Washington nor in New York, and perhaps not even in the US at all, but I figured a multitude of sleeper cells and plots globally, where it would be virtually impossible to discover them all before they came to fruition.
- What I felt was the aim of the terrorist organization was to provoke an over-reaction by the US, which would in turn make the US look like the evil terrorists. I felt that the US should avoid this as best as possible, but I think in this sense, the terrorists won.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

For *off-grid* PV solar, we have reached and exceeded fridge parity!

My father has a house at west point, and since the electricity grid (nor the water grid) does not reach there, a combination of power alternatives does the job for off grid. Just a few years ago, the most economical off grid fridge alternative was a gas fridge. A twelve volt power system with four Lead acid batteries for storage and one solar panel (80 W) was enough for a tiny (all 12V) bar fridge, lighting, tv and charging of phones. Now with just 2 80W solar panels and a few extra batteries for good measure, there is enough power for a full size 12V fridge freezer! Being that the house is not always occupied, the fridge can stay on and neither drain money nor waste food. Air conditioners are still most economical with diesel generators run as needed, and gas cannot really be beaten for cooking, but I believe this is a very important milestone for solar over fossil fuels for off-grid purposes. This has required *NO SUBSIDIES*. It is prohibitively expensive to convert a system optimised for greed feed-in to a system optimised for off-grid purposes. This is why greed feed-in is useless in power blackouts - no storage - no internal power regulation - inefficient upconversion from 12V to 240V.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

All subsisidies reek of the sulfurous stench of Hades

All other things being equal, (food production, installed PV systems) doing well is a sign that policies are on a good path. The problem is, as soon as you start subsidizing same, things are no longer equal, and the rule no longer applies. To get a quantitative analysis on what I am saying is that the theoretical test that there is a net positive is to calculate the effects of removing the subsidy and seeing if future taxes on the industry can repay the sum cost of the subsidy over the period it operated over. To be fair, one can include taxes intrinsic to the industry during and after the subsidy period.
Quantitatively, to measure the net effect of the subsidy, consider it like an investment, the return on investment being how much extra tax can be extracted from industry for the amount of subsidy spent. It is clear that on this count, that virtually all subsidies ever devised are loss making black holes. It is highly unfair to assume illeffects of taxes on commerce, when the root cause is the black hole of subsidies.