Pedant's Note
Jan 01, 2010

Every decade around this time, we get pedants who point out that since there was no Year 0, decades/centuries/millenniums start on 1.

I observe that the Gregorian Calendar we use started in 1582, so not only was there no year 0, there was no year 1, year 2, year 3, ..., or year 1581. Therefore, true pendants should be insisting that decades start on twos, and centuries start on 82s, and millennia start on 582s!

Insisting they start on 1 actually has no logic to it at all, if you're going to be concerned about decades and centuries lining up with "when the calendar started", because the calendar did not start on 1, either. No matter how you slice it, we started in the middle of a decade/century/millennium, and so it might as well be the pretty and universally-agreed-upon 0 rather than 1.

Nov 21, 2009

Dear Democratic Supporters of the health care bills:

You do realize you're supporting putting Republicans in charge of health care, right?

Oh, sure, not this year or next. But it's only a matter of time until Republicans can pass bills again. Whether 2011, 2013, or 2017 or beyond, sooner or later it's going to be the Republicans in control of at least one house, the Presidency, and in pretty good shape in the other house. The wheel turns, the pendulum swings. It is not a question of "if", it's a question of "when". And when that happens, the Republicans will be in charge of your health care.

The odds of this happening before the bill has even been in effect very long are distressingly good. Most of the bill's provisions kick in during 2013. (Well, the non-tax provisions; we pay for a long time before we get anything significant.) The odds of the Republicans having a solid house majority, a respectable Senate presence, and the Presidency in 2013 are definitely not zero.

Are you sure this is such a good idea? Because I guarantee the Republicans won't just cancel the bill and return to the current status quo. Maybe a hypothetical Tea Party would, but those Republicans are going to be just as happy as Democrats are to be in control of your health care.

And they will be. Full control. Probably with no non-Republican-controlled healthcare available in the country.

Are you really sure this is such a good idea?

Nov 21, 2009

I'm calling it: This is the year that Christmas officially enveloped Thanksgiving. With less than a week to go to Thanksgiving, the only channel I'm hearing more about Thanksgiving than Christmas is my family communications channels as we work out the plan for next week.

Next envelopment to watch out for: The Presidential campaign enveloping the mid-term elections. The 2008 Presidential campaign effectively started mere days after the 2006 midterms. I think it might take a couple more cycles before that fully overshadows the midterms, but it's going to get noisier.

Aug 23, 2009

This story about climate engineering reminded me:

I strongly support climate engineering if properly analyzed, but I think that proper analysis is unlikely to be possible with most approaches. I strongly favor the development of space mirrors, because they are one of the few techniques that are both highly controllable and they also swing both ways. If it turns out some intervention is not working as we expect, we can actually stop intervening. If the global climate doesn't work the way we expect and suddenly we need to start warming the globe, we can do that by changing the orbit and reflecting sunlight that would have otherwise have shot out into space back onto Earth. Space mirrors have a flexibility and precision almost all other techniques lack, and give us the opportunity to learn how the climate works with direct experimentation and rough engineering consensus.

On the other hand, our focus on atmospheric makeup and our climate industry's insistence that solar output is irrelevant (despite significant evidence to the contrary and, frankly, simple physics) is causing some people to contemplate atmospheric modification, and that is insane, in my opinion. (OK, "irrelevant" may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.) The propaganda fight over global warming (as directly opposed to the truth of global warming) has made people forget that Earth is actually an ice planet. The normal state of the Earth in the Holocene era is "in an Ice Age". Global warming is a civilizational inconvenience; it may kill millions and may cost the world economy billions or trillions, but Civilization will go on. An ice age is the end of Civilization. Full stop. Another 50 or 100 years of technological development and maybe that won't be true, but it is true for the foreseeable future. Atmospheric modification is not reversible, and if somebody miscalculates, or heck, is just flat-out wrong about a highly chaotic system and the globe cools too much, or even quite possibly kicks us into an ice age, there would be little we could do to correct the problem without even more extreme and dangerous inputs.

I think that anyone actually serious about the threat of global warming should be equally serious about climate engineering. After all, in the end, that's exactly what "cutting our carbon" is anyhow; it is no more and no less than an attempt at climate engineering, so it's not even a new thing. But it should be done carefully, and, for that matter, any standard you wish to apply to whether climate engineering is a good idea should also be applied to the question of whether we should be focusing on cutting carbon emissions; skepticism about engineering translates directly into skepticism about the effectively of carbon emission control. But not all climate-control schemes are created equal; some are controls are simple things that we can come to understand and use and some delicacy, and some approaches are haphazard methods based on complex and unproven models that, once deployed, will permit no modification or changes in direction. There's a range of things in between, too, but personally, it doesn't take much irreversibility before I start freaking out.

Jul 13, 2009

I've recently been enjoying Price Theory, an online textbook of economics.

It hasn't stunned me yet, but it's nice to see it all laid out in a textbook style.

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