Archive for April, 2006

Apr 29 2006

Oil, oil, oil…….

Published by under General

For the historians with short memories and for those too young to remember the seventies, I found the following from Barron’s magazine column to be on the point.

LAST WEEK ALSO BROUGHT A SENSE OF DÉJÀ VU from the ‘Seventies in the histrionics over oil and gasoline prices. The same nonsense about “price gouging” and calls for a windfall- profits tax reappeared as if unearthed from a time capsule with a disco ball or an execrable Eagles album. The only thing missing was gas lines of that era, which should tell you something. Aside from spot shortages resulting from the change in government regulations that eliminated the MTBE additive, there was plenty of gasoline available. And though it’s back above $3 a gallon, it’s less than a latte. It’s just we got used to gas being less than bottled water. Let’s see how many Winnebagos will stay parked in their driveways instead of trundling to Nascar races this summer because gas is too dear. Hardly any, I’ll wager.

The irony is that while oil and gas prices grabbed the headlines, crude prices actually retreated last week from over $75 a barrel to around $70.50 before rallying back to $71.88 as tensions over Iran’s nuclear program intensified at week’s end. Friday was the deadline set by the United Nations for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by the BBC as saying that his country “does not give a damn” about U.N. resolutions calling for Iran to stop its nuclear activities. (Wasn’t there also some unpleasantness concerning Iran in the ‘Seventies?)

I’ll also bet that one of the newsweeklies will show up on the newsstand Monday with a cover story about energy, probably with an oil derrick pumping out dollars or something equally inane. If that happens, energy stocks might be due for a pullback. That would be consistent with the pattern discerned by Paul Macrae Montgomery, publisher of the Universal Economics newsletter. By the time something gets into the zeitgeist and onto magazine covers, it’s probably more than discounted in the market.


Oil companies boomed in the 1970s and early 1980s until the high prices and deregulation stimulated production, so supply caught up with demand and crude prices collapsed to $10 a barrel along the way. There followed nearly two decades of underinvestment amid persistent low prices — until the last couple of years. During that time, investment boomed in technology and telecom, until the bust, which left huge excess capacity (think dark fiberoptic cable) and depressed prices. Booms beget busts, until the malinvestments of the previous cycle are liquidated and the capital is reallocated.

It’s really no different from the hog cycle, when you think about. Demand for the piggies drives up prices, so herds expand. Pork chops get pricey, so consumers switch to chicken. Prices fall and herds get slaughtered until supplies shrink; then prices have to rise enough for hog farmers to start to expand their herds again.

Hope I’m within the fair use provisions of copyright when I copy this here. I do, and you would, have to pay to read the original on Barrons’ web site.

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Apr 27 2006

Cha Ya

Published by under Food

A newly opened vegetarian Japanese restaurant on Valencia St between 18th and 19th. An offshoot or branch of a restaurant of the same name over in Berkeley. Appropriate to Berkeley, this one is right in with the buildings of the New College. A somewhat less prestigious seat of higher learning than UC Berkeley.

Food was quite tasty and portions were appropriately large. Sauces were very good. We had mushroom (Kokinko sp?) soba, crispy tofu, a shredded salad and vegie pot stickers in a vegie stew (don’t remember the name). Green tea was excellent. Pottery was attractive.

The menu has a number of ‘sushi’ rolls that I’ll have to try next time.

We will try it again, for sure.

5/25 – Repeat. Still good food. One dish stuffed eggplant was a little bland. Hana Mogoku was good. Still positive on the place. Cash only.

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Apr 27 2006

The World Is Flat

Published by under Books

by Thomas Friedman

This book was a best seller last year and I’ve been ‘reading’ it since last fall. Actually, I read something like the first half (on the ten ‘flatteners’) last fall and then it was put into a pile of half read books and I’ve just gotten back to it. But along the way, I’ve picked it up and put it down many times. Sometimes interesting and sometimes irritating

You’ve likely heard the premise it explores: the world has been ‘flattened’ by globalization enabled by process and technological changes: primarily digital technology based and communications enabled by the internet. Most of the book is about the effect on business and commerce and stresses that any work that can be digitized and transmitted can be done anywhere in the world with the results retransmitted back to where they are needed. Similarly transportation aided and coordinated by electronic information flows has facilitated movement of physical labor to lower wage regions of the world. In its favor, there is some discussion of the dark side of the internet and of globalization, the unevenness of the the flattening and possible reversals (e.g. terrorist or war).

Caveats aside, the book is a pretty one sided telling of the tale that introduces and roughs out the phenomena. However, it doesn’t go very deep into it and doesn’t explore countervailing trends or reactions which will affect its development. I guess the aspect that kept arising and making me want to put the book down was the interminable interviews, conversations and meetings featuring the author and his influential ‘friends’. Too many with the author too central for a book that aspires to describe important aspects of world business, culture and politics.

Worth a skim, but too chatty and personalized for me to be enthusiastic. It is very easily read, but seemed to me to be too long for its content. Overall, worth a skim and dips here and there. Not worth study or even reading every word.

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Apr 26 2006


Published by under retro

Speaking of retro and of things human that don’t seem to ever change, I just noticed this item in an email from Apple:

Intel Fortran Compiler for Mac OS X Now Available
Intel is now shipping several new compilers and libraries,
Including the Intel Fortran Compiler for Mac OS X.

Still around and this case probably still useful. Fortrean was the first high level computer language I used and that was 40+ years ago. When I started working it was used for many things besides math. Most notable logistics oriented simulations. Lots of code was written by hand in fortran and the early stuff was then “key punched:” into cards that went into boxes that went to the big machine room.

No more cards but still Fortran

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Apr 25 2006

Radio Q codes

Published by under retro

I’ve recently started to play a bit with amateur radio which is better known as ‘ham’ radio. It is a world of many many codes and acronyms. More, I think, than the computing business since radio’s origin was about a hundred years ago and bandwidth was really low (think hand typed Morris Code). A bunch of the codes that first sounded like acronyms are really three letters long and start with the letter Q; Q-codes. ti turns out that these are the remnants of a code system defined by the British in 1909. The Wikipedia has a good history and explanation of Q codes.

Some of thes codes are still used and some have made it into the slang used by ham aficionados.
QSO: A conversation (e.g. Thanks very much for the QSO).
QSL: “I Acknowledge receipt” has become an elaborate system for confirming communications between two operators with levels of coverage and corresponding awards. e.g. Please QSL via the bureau (i.e. please send me a card confirming this contact).

Human conventions and habits last so long…….

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Apr 11 2006

Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case

Published by under Books,retro

Presented on a podcast from “Soap Detectives”.

A BBC radio drama from the 30’s (I think) in seven 25 minute episodes. I’d listened to a number of other radio detective shows, but this one ‘grabbed’ me more than the others. Very similar to “The Thin Man” series of books and movies. Paul Temple and his wife Steve(I think that’s what he was saying) are wealthy, well connected, gad abouts and amateur detectives. In this story they take on the case of a young man convicted of killing his fiancee. A whole long series of incidents and encounters ensue. The culmination seems to be the classic bring all the suspects together for a dinner party and ‘outing’ of the real villain, but it carries on a bit further. Much drinking, dancing, and other sorts of fun. A glimpse of upper class life in the urban thirties.

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