Archive for August, 2011

 

MWRA Breaks Water Mains

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

So I wasnt going to blog this, but what i just found out is so incredible, I feel like people ought to hear about it.

So I woke up this morning at about quarter of 6. Or to be more accurate, my nearly two year old son woke me up. I went to the bathroom before getting him and noticed that the toilet didn’t refill after I flushed. I was immediately concerned that we’d burst a pipe, so I rushed down into the basement, but everything was dry. I went outside to fine a National Grid van sitting there. There were two breaks in the street outside my house, with water seeping through onto the street. I asked the guy from National Grid what was going on, and he said there was a water main break. I inferred he was there to paint lines letting the water workers know where the gas lines were. Shortly after he left, town officials showed up, and started digging.

None of this seemed that crazy. Belmont is an old town, and the part of town in which I live was built in the 1920′s, so the idea of an old water min breaking wasn’t too hard to believe.

Later, driving through Belmont, we noticed workers digging in Belmont town center as well. It seemed off that two water mains broke, but I shrugged it off. At some point later, my wife went out to ask the workers when they thought they’d be done, and they said they thought they’d have the water back on within the hour. That was shortly after lunch, so all in all it didn’t seem so bad.

So I take the boy and the dog out on a long walk, and come home and the town crew is now working about a half block down the street, and the water is still not on. This is at about 4:30 or so. So I go down and ask what’s up. What he tells me is shocking.

Apparently the MWRA has a water pressure spike of 20%!!! This spike has caused blow outs all over the place. He thought there were like three or four on my street alone. I asked him how many people were without water, and he said he worked for a private co tractor and wasn’t sure. But he had no idea as to when they’d be done with repairs. He said they were literally fabricating parts for the water mains as they went, because these pipes were so old nobody made parts for them any more. Sounded like a real cluster fuck.

So naturally I go to Boston.com to read something on the story, and couldn’t find a thing. The MWRA website showed nothing, their “important notices” section read “no important notices at this time”.

Well, it seems to be that a 20% spike warrants some investigation. I can’t imagine many pipes having tolerances that can withstand such pipes. The MWRA governs most of metro Boston water. I would imagine that there are old pipes blown allover the place. Somebody ought to be held to account for this. It’s one thing to lose clean water, as we did when the main in Weston broke. But to lose all water means you can’t flush toilets. Think about that inconvenience for 5 minutes.

If anybody knows anything more, leave a comment. I’ll be following up on this with my state rep.

 
 

Interpretations of History

Friday, August 19th, 2011

I had a history teacher in high school, during the Reagan years, who was an extreme liberal and made no bones about it. His last name was similar to the name Thomas, leading him to be dubbed “Tommy the Commie” by students. Nice guy though, or at least I thought so. I learned a lot from him, though I know he wasn’t to everyone’s tastes.

I took AP American History with him. AP American History was a two year course, and he taught the second half, from WWI through to the modern era. And I remember him distinctly teaching the Great Depression and how we came out of it. In class, he was adamant that the New Deal did NOT bring us out of the Great Depression, and insisted that we all understand that. Rather, he taught, it was World War II that ended the Great Depression. He never went into detail about why that was, but I believe it is standard Keynsian analysis. World War II caused an enormous uptick in spending that stimulated the economy, and pulled the country out of its deflationary spiral.

Of course, such an analysis is not entirely out of step with a monetarist view either. The monetarist says that the Federal Reserve overreacted to the loose money supply generated by WWI and in the 1920′s boom by contracting the money supply too fast and by too much. Only when World War II broke out, requiring an inflation in the money supply to finance it, as most wars generally require, did the Great Depression finally end. This is in effect what Ben Bernanke believes, and why he felt like a Great Depression could be avoided in the future, because if a deflationary spiral showed itself, the Fed would “drop money out of helicopters” to counteract it, and thus save the economy.

Enter Amity Shales. She argues, in her book The Forgotton Man, that the Great Depression was really caused by the frenetic and unpredictable activity of the New Deal She argues that the flurry of new laws, of government intrusions into the economy turned what would have been a normal and relatively brief panic into a never ending mess. Businesses cannot plan in an unpredictable legal environment, and so they hunker down, trying to wait out the storm. The storm finally passed when the Republicans took back congress under Truman, and effectively ended the New Deal intrusions into the economy. Only then did the economy recover, and normalcy return.

Today we have a remake of that very same debate. On the left we have the likes of Paul Krugman literally pining away for an alien invasion, to spend yet more money to stop deflation. And on the right, we have a Tea Party movement which wants to repeal the major legislative changes of the past decade, reform entitlements so government spends less money and actually starts paying down its debts. It is unlikely that we will have an historical event that enables everyone to walk away thinking their economic theories are validated. It is far more likely that this election will send us down one path or the other (and given the trends I suspect it will be the Tea Party path), and that we may well have an opportunity to validate and discredit certain economic theories once and for all. I welcome this opportunity, though I harbor no illusions that it will clear the minds of those willing to engage in self delusion.

Also worth reading today Tim Cavanaugh and Stephen Moore.

 
 

Curses and Blessings

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Wanted to briefly respond to this post by Asteroid. I was originally going to do it in the comments, but now I think it warrants a post of its own. if you haven’t read Asteroid’s post, go do that and then come back.

Welcome back.

Asteroid begins by quoting the Bible and asserting that the “be fruitful and multiply” phrase in the Bible has been taken way too literally by too many religious nuts and that they have as a result overpopulated the earth. But to my knowledge, only the Mormons place a significant amount of emphasis on that phrase. And Asteroid is incorrect to assert that Christian proscriptions against the use of birth control stem from an edict to have children. Rather, Christian sexual mores come from St. Paul’s letters.

In his letters, St. Paul asserts the following “logic”: Because the Holy Spirit resides within the human body, the body is a temple. And just as it would be grossly inappropriate to have sex in a temple, so it is inappropriate to have sex with one’s body. This means that the purest of Christians lead celibate lives, as St. Paul himself was doing. But St. Paul also understood that most humans were incapable of living celibate lives, and that the human race requires sex to continue. And so he instructed followers that they should really only have sex for procreative purposes, and that all other forms/purposes of sex were inappropriate.

It’s worth noting that this is quite different from the “be fruitful” line of reasoning, and from the “every sperm is sacred” line of reasoning made famous by Monty Python, which also derives from the Old Testament. In fact, St. Paul’s letters are, to my knowledge, the only source of sexual mores to be found in the New Testament.

And arguably, this is all beside the point, as Asteroid is more or less making a malthusian argument:

Even if you think we are not choking on our own waste already, how long do you think it will be until we do? How will you know? Think about it this way:

Say you have a jar. In this jar, you will be breeding some sort of organism (yeast or bacteria or something). Let’s say these organisms breed really quickly, with the population doubling every minute. You start breeding at 11am. By noon, the jar is full. Given that the population doubles each minute, what time is it when the jar is half-full?

People who don’t understand the problem (or exponential growth) will naïvely say 11:30. This is wrong, of course. What is not as obvious is that the mathematically correct answer (11:59, one minute before noon) is also wrong. It’s wrong because the population would never actually fill the jar at all. In the real world, the waste products produced by the existing organisms would kill the whole population long before the jar got anywhere near to full.

Now, imagine you are one of the organisms in this jar. What time would it be when you started saying to yourself “man, it is getting really crowded and smelly in here?” And once you notice, is there anything you can do about it? Or is it already too late?

I have two things to say about this, as to why Asteroid’s fears are unfounded. And then I want to talk about a population related fear that Asteroid has missed, but which is much more worrisome.

First I want to say that we will never reach the point where we poison ourselves in the jar because we humans have a natural population control mechanism built into ourselves. That is to say, the more wealthier we become, the fewer children we tend to have. In many parts of the world, most notably the white first world, birth rates are below that of replacement requirements. Why would that be? Well why wouldn’t that be? We have such great access to birth control and we basically have the ability to live vastly better than the royalty of years past. Even if we work too hard, we are having way too much fun to want to have too many children. So we don’t. So if Asteroid wants to decrease the rate at which we replace ourselves, his best bet is to spread Western capitalism and lifestyles far and wide.

Second even if we don’t believe that we will limit our own population by virtue of being rich, I believe that we will find other places to live by way of human ingenuity. Human ingenuity always overcomes malthusian math, and always in the nick of time. That’s why Adam Smith’s invisible hand and the pricing mechanism work so damned well. If life on Earth becomes expensive and miserable due to overpopulation in a world reminiscent of Soylent Green, then we will find other places in which to live. Terra-form Mars. Build colonies on the moon and under the sea. Melt the polar ice caps and live in antarctica. Who knows what we’ll think up. But we’ll do something. Humans are not bacteria sitting in a closed glass jar, and we will not be so limited in our options.

Finally I am concerned about our world population, but not about how many people exist per se, but how many men exist in relation to how many women:

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that’s as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China’s and India’s populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.

There are only three ways for these countries to deal with their sex imbalance problems, which stem from aborting girls for irrational cultural reasons:

  1. Killing off excess males: This likely would involve war between China and India, both of whom have this same problem. This is convenient for these countries insofar as they share a border.
  2. Opening free state run brothels: Ancient Rome did this albeit for entirely different reasons. But free public brothels is not without precedent. Such brothels will satisfy unmarried males, at least to some degree, and put off the violence and domestic insurrection that will ensue without access to women.
  3. Exporting the problem: Send your young males overseas to other countries to live. Young men may be motivated to get advanced degrees and the like for the privilege of living in a country where it’s possible to find female companionship.

I think that option 3 is a very real possibility, and not a pretty one for us here in the west. I think we should impose new immigration laws, forbidding unmarried men from immigrating here without bringing a wife, unless they come from a country with a balanced male/female ratio. But young men from China and India should have wives they bring with them. You may argue that this policy discriminates against gays, but not really. They need only find a lesbian to immigrate here with. But no matter. The point is to not let other countries’ insane population problems be exported to our country. Because there is zero likelihood that we will open state run brothels to deal with the problem, and I doubt that we could or would press recent immigrants into service for a war that we enter into for the express purpose of thinning our artificially high male population. So barring either of those two options means we would see domestic violence the likes of which would make England seem tame by comparison.

Generally immigrants are a blessing. But they could become a curse.

 
 

Worth Noting

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

From James Taranto:

But the comparison between Keynesian economics and global warmism is on target. Both are liberal dogmas disguised, increasingly thinly, as science. Both are supported by circular logic, and thus lack falsifiability, a necessary characteristic of a scientific theory. If the weather gets warmer, that’s because of global warming; if it gets colder, that’s “climate change” and proves the theory too. Had unemployment stayed below 8%, as the Obama administration promised it would, that would have proved the “stimulus” worked; since it peaked at 10% and has held steady above 9%, that proves the stimulus wasn’t big enough. Heads I win, tails you lose.

So much for the “reality based community”.

 
 

Questions

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

I have questions. Perhaps you have answers:

  • Is iCloud going to available to Mac apps that are not sold through the app store, or is iCloud only available to apps sold through the app store?
  • If iCloud is only available to apps approved by Apple through the app store, then why is Apple apparently planning to defer revenue related to Lion to account for the deferred use of tbe iCloud service?
  • If iCloud is a component that comes with Lion, then shouldn’t Lion customers be able to use their 5Gigs, or more if they pay for more, any damned way they choose?
  • If there is going to be an iCloud interface for the web, will web apps for iOS be able to store data on iCloud?
  • Social Security numbers are made up of 8 digits. By my count that means that there can only be 100 million social security numbers issued. Yet there are currently in excess of 300 million Americans, every one of whom ought to have a Social Security number. What the hell? Is the Social Security numbering system just a big joke now? 9 digits. Given that there are 300 million Americans currently aiven, doesn’t that mean we should run out of social security numbers in the next 100 years? Is anybody planning for this?