Thursday, June 28, 2012


This chart gets more incredible every time it is updated.

This is the Blackest of Swans, IMHO.  And the outlook right now appears even better. Consumption is not forecast to rise much at all, and domestic production could increase mightily in the very near future.

The net economic result of not sending so much money outside our borders is enormous. It also ratchets back the urgency for military foolishness in the Mideast. Let China and Europe deal with the Saudis, for once.

Even with BRIC demand growing, I see no reason to countenance doomsday scenarios of $200 oil. Also our domestic oil/gas production certainly undercuts ethanol mandate expansion, and if we punt this corn crop, it provides grounds for mandate waivers by the EPA.

It also spells a grim future for Big Coal, especially after the court ruling on new EPA emission limits for new power plants.

As I have said before, this is a big fracking deal.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Junkbox, Episode OVDRDU...  

Struggling with drought-depression. Brain won't work.
Hope you're getting rain.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Since House has been cancelled...  

We're gonna need something like this.

(Sorry lost the link and the point...)

I think it is fatuous to think this won't change the status and need for doctors. Moreover, this is one response to one part of the problem of healthcare costs.

But I think it would also reduce the spending on unneeded procedures and tests. That is ONE big issue for bending the curve.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Missed again...  

As our drought that started last June continues with another miss today, I find this unsettling article about what climate change could mean for Aaron.
Recent price spikes1, 2 have raised concern that climate change could increase food insecurity by reducing grain yields in the coming decades3, 4. However, commodity price volatility is also influenced by other factors5, 6, which may either exacerbate or buffer the effects of climate change. Here we show that US corn price volatility exhibits higher sensitivity to near-term climate change than to energy policy influences or agriculture–energy market integration, and that the presence of a biofuels mandate enhances the sensitivity to climate change by more than 50%. The climate change impact is driven primarily by intensification of severe hot conditions in the primary corn-growing region of the United States, which causes US corn price volatility to increase sharply in response to global warming projected to occur over the next three decades. Closer integration of agriculture and energy markets moderates the effects of climate change, unless the biofuels mandate becomes binding, in which case corn price volatility is instead exacerbated. However, in spite of the substantial impact on US corn price volatility, we find relatively small impact on food prices. Our findings highlight the critical importance of interactions between energy policies, energy–agriculture linkages and climate change. [More]
Included in the article is this frankly horrifying graph.

[Click to embiggen - and you really need to]

The first four maps show hot corn production days historically and the near future (2020-2040).

But the maps on the right show where corn production will go when the climate changes.

I'm not sure denying climate change will be as popular after a couple more short crops.
Chinese Saying of the Day...  

A little nugget I found as I was wandering around the Intertubes:
 The situation can be summed up in a popular Chinese expression that says “Men turn bad once they get rich, while women get rich only after they turn bad.”[More]
One a related note, I am halfway through The Fall and Rise of ChinaSuperb! Highly recommended.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ray Bradbury, Dreaming of tall...  

I was pleasantly surprised by the wide coverage of Ray Bradbury's death this week. I have read in my very early years and often thereafter his works, and the stories this week of his life were revelatory.

Still, this video (via Andrew Sullivan), may be the best "Last Word" I have ever savored.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

My group right or wrong...  

I have met a handful of Hutterites at speeches and farm meetings in Canada and the Northern Plains, but only had a vague idea of their beliefs and practices. This blog post and comments from Real Agriculture perked up my interest.
To suggest that Hutterite colonies are destroying the traditional family farm is ridiculous To suggest that colonies are panicking without the Canadian Wheat Board is just being uninformed.  Lamenting that  that there is advantages to colony life that make it impossible to compete with them is an over statement.
Do colonies have human resource advantages?  Yes.  Are some colonies very aggressive in their acre growth aspirations?  Yes.  Are some colonies now sending members to College and University? Yes.

Many non-colony farmers have just as much a human resource advantages with the whole family working on the farm.  It is always easier for family members to draw less income to help the farm through a tight financial period.  This is where large corporate farms actually have a disadvantage. With commodity prices rising over the past decade, land values and the competition amongst farmers is going to naturally increase.  Many farmers don't care for their colony neighbours because they create competition for land.  One of the major changes with rising commodity prices is that colonies and large farms are expanding outside of their traditional areas.  Lethbridge farmers seeding in Vulcan, or Red Deer farmers seeding in Yorkton is a new reality of agriculture.  Its not just colonies that are aggressively trying to expand. [More]
Obviously, the much-nicer-than-us (no sarcasm) Canadians are struggling with the ramp up in land competition and the ensuing ethical changes in community expectations. Of course, the Corn Belt is moving their direction, so their stakes may be even higher.

My rough comparisons to the Amish with which I am slightly more familiar are probably not very accurate either. The one thing I did sorta know was their colony size seemed to buttress the idea that we evolved in groups of 200 or less as a basic community self-limit. (Dunbar's number)
Hutterites live in colonies and have a "community of goods" - there is no private ownership of property except for small things. They live in colonies of about 15 families, but each family usually has its own home or apartment. Colonies range in size from about 60 to about 150 people.
Farming is a big part of the Hutterite culture, and it's how colonies support themselves. However, some have turned to small manufacturing because of scarce land and difficulties farming.
Hutterites wear dark clothing. Men wear simple pants, shirts and jackets, and sport beards. Women wear long sleeves, headscarves and long skirts, and never wear pants. Both the women's and men's attire aren't limited to black.
Hutterites go to church services on Sunday and to half-hour services daily. Members don't watch TV or listen to the radio to keep separate from the outside world.
Traditionally, Hutterite children leave school at age 15 (or whatever age allowed by each province) and work in the community. But this is where the differences start. According to John J. Friesen, professor of history and theology at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Group 1 of the Schmiedeleut Hutterian Brethren Church in Manitoba provides high school classes for members. Some members eventually go on to the Brandon University Hutterian Education Program to become teachers for the colonies.
Another Hutterian belief that the groups differ involves photographs. Some Hutterians believe they cannot willingly have their photos taken, based on the second of the Ten Commandments. "The commandment is, 'Thou shalt not make no graven images,' " says David Goa, director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public life, at the Augustana campus of the University of Alberta. He says this is generally understood as no images of God, but can be interpreted differently. [More]

In Jonathon Haidt's, The Righteous Mind, which I just finished, he asserts that belonging is as central as believing. In other words, our actions and beliefs are all mixed up with the groups we belong to. We don't choose groups to match our beliefs so much as the other way around. 

As true belonging becomes a scarcer commodity ("networking" may not be a substitute), we seem to be willing to become more dogmatic and illogical in order to stay with our groups. Hence one big factor on the death of compromise.

Successful groups got that way, Haidt says, by group evolution. The idea our groups are naturally selected just as individuals are selected within them is controversial, but gaining ground. I find it persuasive and helpful in explaining the new dynamics of cooperation and confrontation in our culture.

The debate above seems to be another reflection of this struggle between groups and individual rights.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Drinking from the firehose...  

The Information Age is taking its toll. Too many of us are reacting to an overload of information. Nassim Taleb offers an analysis:
Now let’s add the psychological to this: we are not made to understand the point, so we overreact emotionally to noise. The best solution is to only look at very large changes in data or conditions, never small ones.
Just as we are not likely to mistake a bear for a stone (but likely to mistake a stone for a bear), it is almost impossible for someone rational with a clear, uninfected mind, one who is not drowning in data, to mistake a vital signal, one that matters for his survival, for noise. Significant signals have a way to reach you. In the tonsillectomies, the best filter would have been to only consider the children who are very ill, those with periodically recurring throat inflammation.
There was even more noise coming from the media and its glorification of the anecdote. Thanks to it, we are living more and more in virtual reality, separated from the real world, a little bit more every day, while realizing it less and less. Consider that every day, 6,200 persons die in the United States, many of preventable causes. But the media only reports the most anecdotal and sensational cases (hurricanes, freak incidents, small plane crashes) giving us a more and more distorted map of real risks. In an ancestral environment, the anecdote, the “interesting” is information; no longer today. Likewise, by presenting us with explanations and theories the media induces an illusion of understanding the world.
And the understanding of events (and risks) on the part of members of the press is so retrospective that they would put the security checks after the plane ride, or what the ancients call post bellum auxilium, send troops after the battle. Owing to domain dependence, we forget the need to check our map of the world against reality. So we are living in a more and more fragile world, while thinking it is more and more understandable.
To conclude, the best way to mitigate interventionism is to ration the supply of information, as naturalistically as possible. This is hard to accept in the age of the internet. It has been very hard for me to explain that the more data you get, the less you know what’s going on, and the more iatrogenics you will cause. [More]
I think there is something to this. As I spend more time in my shop and less - well, here - it seems to make the rest of my life a little smoother.

Or maybe it's just that I am increasingly concerned about the future and how people I care about will handle it. So the fewer allusions to an impending "Great Depression", the better I cope.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

I think I see the problem...  

Our production headache this year in one chart.

Make your own here.


Sunday, June 03, 2012

All you need to know about...  

 Population, religion and fertility in less than 15 minutes.  Simply brilliant.

This information certainly did not match my supposedly informed views on demographic trends,  but I think I have a much better handle on the problem than before.

While I have long since wearied of PowerPointless presentations, succinct talks and stunningly explanatory charts such as above are lifting our power to transmit even complex information to  more people more accurately.

Peak Child - who'd have thunk it?

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Still, I will miss...  


I dunno, it seems a shame our tidy solar system has gotten so very messy.

Much like the ol' atom of Neils Bohr.

 Now it's all "clouds of probability".