Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Greens political guff

Frustrations with the Greens - again.

I am not a swinging green voter. Rather, I have voted green in every election since I joined the electoral roll in the late nineties. I have a lot of time for Bob Brown, and I think the party at large has provided benefit to Australia.

However, there have been a few instances lately where I've had cause to question my alegiences. This recent media release is one of them.

It is pure political guff, full of overstated and missleading information used to skew people's views and knowledge on the discussion of renewable energy.

The fact that renewable energy nameplate capacity for renewable energy has taken over that of nuclear plants is irrelevant - energy dispatched into the market it the key. Nameplate capacity is how much electricity a power plant, solar cell or wind farm could theoretically produce at maximum output. Energy dispactched is how much electricity is actually produces.

One of the biggest problems with renewable energy is that it cannot be relied on to produce anywhere near its nameplate capacity over a period. Solar panels, for example, don't work at night, and wind farms don't work when there is no wind. This reliability issue with why, when working out the total capacity of the National Electricity Market (NEM) in Australia, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) only allocates 20% of nameplate capacity of renewables. That is, it can only count on renewable energy sources to provide one fifth of thier nameplate capacities.

Nuclear however is 24/7. It can produce up to its nameplate capacity when needed, and turn down (with limitations) when not.

The key here is that the Greens are trying to paint renewables as something they are not - credible power sources that can be relied on, and sources that are comparable, or better to, nuclear.

The thing that really got the hair on the back of my neck up was the final paragraph where it was suggested that nuclear power could not operate without the subsidies it received from Governments around the world.

HELLOOOO, pot calling the kettle black.

Where is the mention of the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Tartget (LRET) Scheme and the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). What about the solar feed-in tariffs? Without being subsidiesed by every energy user on the east coast of Australia, renewable energy is dead in the water. It's all over for it.

The frustrating thing is that there are some great things happening in renewable energy in Australia. We have a Government that is promoting renewable energy. Renewable energy is becoming more important in the Australian market. And, maybe, someday, renewable energy will become a viable alternative to coal, gas or nuclear power. But rather than focus on these positives, the Greens have used some spurious data and ilogical arguments to try and spin the situation.

How about the truth please?

I'm disapointed. I've come to expect this sort of crap from the Labor and Liberal parties, but it sadens me to see it come from the Green, a group that I had thought prided itself on honesty and integrity.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pondering my misspelt youth

I had a great faux par at work today. I sent an email to the whole organisation with the following link to this site on the Tsunami in Japan. Subject for the email -

'Sunami - before and after'

It took about 2.5 seconds before I had the first response -

'Epic fail - Tsunami is spelt with a T'

And a few seconds later a reply form a third party that made me feel a little better -

'Spelt is a grain used to make bread - you want spelled'

Lessons learnt:

  1. Spell check does not work on subject line
  2. Take a second to look for obvious mistakes in emails before sending to peers and bosses
  3. Do not reprimand others on spelling unless you know what you are talking about

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Firearms - concealed or open? Both bad

While I dislike fire arms intensely, the arguments about concealed vs unconcealed weapons has taken my eye in recent times. None of it makes sense to me, but definitely the argument that concealing weapons makes it safer for Joe Blogs.

A mate of mine has just sent me a video of a fold-up machine gun. He wants one for Christmas. As often happens with this friend, our views differ. I find this sort of thing quite disturbing.

The argument between concealed vs. blatantly obvious weapons is an interesting one.

Clearly the chances of being mugged with a big Smith and Wesson on your belt are low. However, many firearm pundits argue that allowing concealed weapons make people safer, on average. Their view is that, while openly carrying firearms protects the carrier, it sends the message to would-be muggers that anyone without an obvious firearm is unarmed – the perfect victim. However, if all weapons are concealed, the would-be mugger is unable to separate the persons that are armed from those that are not – thus making mugging anyone more risky.

But, if you are in a location where you are allowed to conceal weapons, and you are the sort of person that feels that they need a weapon for self defense, why would you conceal it? Surely you would want to make your 'protection' as obvious as possible*. Yes, the would-be mugger might be be hesitant to mug someone if he/she was unsure if they were carrying a weapon, but someone who might be carrying a weapon has to be far more attractive to mug than someone that definitely is.

Wouldn't then, it be in everyone who is carrying a weapon's best interest to carry it openly? if so, the mugger would soon enough work out that anyone carrying a gun is carrying it openly, and anyone who is not carrying a gun openly is also not concealing a gun either. Thus making laws that allow concealed weapons on the basis of self defense pointless.

Worse still, the only persons that would have an incentive to conceal his weapon is the would-be mugger - because he would want others to see him as harmless until it's too late.

I’d prefer if people just didn’t carry guns. I'm glad to live in Australia where they are uncommon.

*picture Rambo out shopping – big gun, knives on belt, little daughter sleeping peacefully in a baby bjorn on chest

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Politics - a dirty word

Why won’t our leaders lead? And, how could they expect us to believe in them if they don’t hold any beliefs?

I regularly hear other people talking about politics at work and I can’t seem to get interested in it. The problem is that I see politicians as conniving weasels that will do and/or say whatever it takes to win the next election. Politicians, in my mind, do not appear to believe in anything. They appear bereft of any individual thought – being only able to tow the ‘party line’.

But here’s the problem, the ‘party’ line is no longer based on any central tenet. With potentially the exception of the Greens, I can no longer base my voting decision on a set of ideals that both the party and I share. Tenets such as economic liberty or worker protection are largely gone from our political system.

For instance, surely the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, as a Liberal Party member, should oppose government intrusion in the financial system, and yet he is always going on about how the current Government should increase regulation in the banking system to reduce the rights of banks to increase interest rates (here).

Whether there is a need to intrude in the banking system or not, surely the impetus for this type of policy should be coming from the workers party – the ALP – rather than the Liberal Party.

Populist and median voter policies frustrate me to no end. If you want to lead a country – work out what you believe in, choose a party (or not) that suits those beleifs, grow some balls (figuratively, ladies) and stick to your guns.

Don’t be one of those snivelling little people that are so scared of losing their job that they don’t speak up when they see something that is wrong or against your beliefs. Instead, try your hand at leading.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Simplicity Through Complexity

I just watched this interesting presentation on TED by Eric Berlow. Eric is a biologist that researches complex ecosystems and he has found that taking a step back and looking at the big picture often enables simple conclusions to be drawn.

Good economists follow a similar approach. It is important to expand your field of vision in order to understand a whole market, or a system of markets. Only once the whole system is understood can you draw conclusions about what is happening on a micro level.

The most important line I got from the presentation was:

'the more you step back and embrace complexity, the better chance you have of finding simple answers, and it's often different to the simple answer that you start with...(if you had not taken a step back)'

So next time you are faced with a complex issue, take a step back and try to understand the big picture. You might find that the answer you are looking for is more forthcoming in a big picture analysis, and you are likely to come to better conclusions as you will understand the flow on effects of your potential actions.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Where does the future start?

When forecasting or planning for the future, is our vision irreparably blurred or skewed by the present?

This morning I read the beginning of Keynes' 1919 book The Economic Consequences of the Peace. Keynes wrote this book because he was unsatisfied with the resolution of the first world war - he felt that the political and economic decisions made in the wake of the war were so one-sided and unfair that they would result in Germany rising up in anger once again.

He was right too.

But what struck me was Keynes’ observation of human nature – that we expect the status quo to go on forever.

I found the opening lines quite moving - it made me question what the future holds for Australia. It seems like Australians are happy to chug along in their lives, satisfied that the economy will continue to turnover at a great rate. This national resolution to relax and wait for the commodity royalties to trickle though the economy has won us plenty of attention throughout the world, but how long can the commodities be relied on?

The power to become habituated to his surroundings is a marked characteristic of mankind. Very few of us realize with conviction the intensely unusual, unstable, complicated, unreliable, temporary nature of the economic organization by which Western Europe has lived for the last half century. We assume some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late advantages as natural, permanent, and to be depended on, and we lay our plans accordingly. On this sandy and false foundation we scheme for social improvement and dress our political platforms, pursue our animosities and particular ambitions, and feel ourselves with enough margin in hand to foster, not assuage, civil conflict in the European family.

Are we basing our plans for the future on sandy and false foundations? Are we too caught up in the present to realise how fleeting the present really is...was?

Thinking about it in modeling/forecasting terms, it appears that our estimates of the future rely too heavily on our most recent experiences. While we understand that the logical starting point for the future is the present, we may fail to recognise if the present is an outlier (not along the long-term trend line). If the present is an outlier, then it is not a good base for a forecast.

But is this the myopic nature of the human race? I find it somewhat ironic that our minds have sufficient power to know that we have to plan for the future, but they are not powerful enough to net out the effects of our current situation in order to make our future plans more realistic.

This bias for the present affects everything that we are; our mood as walk down the street, our ability to perform at work (or elsewhere) and our plans for the future (it can even affect our memories of the past). Everything that we do, see and perceive is affected by our present or our immediate past.

I wonder how I can best net out my current perceptions in order to better understand the future?

More importantly, how do I start planning for the future if the future doesn’t necessarily start with the present?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Driverless car to save us from the oldies

Googgle is making a driverless car to account for the dangers of the ageing population.

I say bring it on - I can't wait to be able to set the car to Autopilot and snuggle up next to Maple and Anna in the back seat. Sleepy time... here I come.

Sadly it's a few years off yet.