Tuesday, October 30, 2007


My Word!

Well, there may be others, but "selfphone" (or "selfone"?) is one word for which I am a proud parent. I'm not sure how to do a DNA test to ensure that someone else wasn't begatting this word when I thought I was. But I'd never heard (or read) it when it occurred to me that these devices were personal, no families were leaving one in the hallway for everyone to share instead of "land line" phones -- they were phones for one's self (whether the technology was cellular or not).

Then a day or two ago, I encountered an interesting alternative: "persophone". It seems to be used (on AlGore and the Ythm's Internet) more than ten times more often than "selfphone" is. It is a syllable longer and doesn't play phonetically with "cell phone", but if tip comes to tip ("tipping point" revision of "push comes to shove"), I suppose I could adopt it.


The search results on the basis of which the claim that persophone was used much more often than selfphone were based:


Persophone: 6 360 réponses
selfphone: 252 réponses


Persophone: 13,600 (Did you mean persephone)
selfphone: 1200 (Did you mean self phone)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


News On "Carbon sinks"

I'm often critical of the Wall Street Journal, or at least its op/ed material. Today I'd like to note that the Wall Street Journal, but neither the LATimes nor the NYTimes, reported the fresh bad news on C02. The articles in the UK's Times and the Independent were more prominent, but that may well be due to the role of British and Australian researchers in establishing the observation.

Carbon Dioxide Is Increasing Faster Than Expected, Study Says
Associated Press
Word Count: 685

WASHINGTON -- Just days after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for global warming work, a new study finds that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing faster than expected.

Carbon-dioxide emissions were 35% higher in 2006 than in 1990, a much faster growth rate than anticipated, researchers led by Josep G. Canadell, of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Increased industrial use of fossil fuels coupled with a decline in the gas absorbed by the oceans and land were listed as causes of the increase.

New CO2 evidence means climate change predictions are 'too optimistic'
From The Times
October 23, 2007
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

'Carbon sinks' lose ability to soak up emissions
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 23 October 2007

The study also found that the amount of CO2 released into the air from human activities has accelerated in recent years not just because of the growth of the global economy but because, for the first time in a century, the efficiency with which fossil fuels are used has stagnated.

I'm a little puzzled by this concept, however. I thought the most complete combustion of hydrocarbon fuels produced CO2, so I don't see how less efficient use would produce more of it. Perhaps more is being burned because it is in equipment which makes less complete use of the heat ?

UPDATE (25 October): Study: Warming is stronger, happening sooner

MSNBC staff and news service reports
Updated: 5:06 p.m. ET Oct. 22, 2007

This article gives a clue to how it was judged that the "efficiency with which fossil fuels are used has stagnated": since 2000 more carbon is being emitted to produce each dollar of global wealth, they noted.

It also cites Alan Robock, associate director of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers University:
“It turns out that global warming critics were right when they said that global climate models did not do a good job at predicting climate change,” Robock said. “But what has been wrong recently is that the climate is changing even faster than the models said. In fact, Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than any models predicted, and sea level is rising much faster than IPCC previously predicted.”

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


DANIEL B. BOTKIN's Attempts to Delude On Global Warming

The introductory paragraph of Global Warming Delusions launches its premise with the evidence that global warming will have serious effects on life is thin. Most evidence suggests the contrary. And then the author begins to demonstrate the wealth of contrary evidence:

  • It is implied that extrapolating the rate of species extinction over the past 2.5 million years is a more trustworthy predictor than "his year's United Nations report on climate change and other documents say that 20%-30% of plant and animal species will be threatened with extinction in this century due to global warming -- a truly terrifying thought. me: Has nothing changed that might change the dynamics from the average of the past?
  • Tropical diseases such as malaria will not spread; one researcher says so, the changes to date do not correlate well with the temperature changes. me: But can the correlations improve when the temperature changes become greater? Perhaps not.
  • Temperature and rainfall are not the key factors explaining habitat shifts. Proof: mockingbirds are becoming more common in Manhattan because there is a new food source. me: And just what climate change does this demonstrate was not influential? Or does failure to be the only factor imply that something cannot be a factor at all? Why don't I remember that from school?
End of development of the "most evidence" argument; already.

After a brief summary of his career, to establish his credibility in the field, the author switches to what some people he knows have told him they think makes it morally acceptable to exaggerate. Fine, such discussions are not new, and not likely to ever disappear (at least not before we do). However, it is not at all clear that that in any way demonstrates that the U.N. report exaggerates; to decide that a certain deception would be morally justifiable (in the minds of people who did not publish the report in question) does not prove that such deception has been practiced (nor are all men Socrates). By the way, recent arctic melting suggests that the projections used in the U.N. report are, if anything, overly conservative.

The next "it's best to presume nothing has changed" argument pretends that computing power, algorithmic efficiency, and model quality have not improved very rapidly over recent years. The implication that the models are not using the available data from the past 2.5 million years for calibration, and to check the models' predictive power in the past, is astounding:
The climate modelers who developed the computer programs that are being used to forecast climate change used to readily admit that the models were crude and not very realistic, but were the best that could be done with available computers and programming methods. They said our options were to either believe those crude models or believe the opinions of experienced, data-focused scientists. Having done a great deal of computer modeling myself, I appreciated their acknowledgment of the limits of their methods. But I hear no such statements today. Oddly, the forecasts of computer models have become our new reality, while facts such as the few extinctions of the past 2.5 million years are pushed aside, as if they were not our reality.
To his We should approach the problem the way we decide whether to buy insurance and take precautions against other catastrophes -- wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes. I would suggest he read "In Nature’s Casino by Michael Lewis to better appreciate whether we are as good at managing our risk coverage as he seems to assume, naively.

Just before closing (I can't call it concluding, really), he chooses to mention the orangutans, endangered by deforestation. While I agree that it would be sad if we fail to find funds to purchase those forests before they are destroyed, and thus let this species go extinct, it is not at all clear to me that any such failure is likely to be because in this panic we are going to spend our money unwisely, we will take actions that are counterproductive, and we will fail to do many of those things that will benefit the environment and ourselves. And while we're at it, maybe we can buy some icebergs and snowbanks to prevent the extinction of polar bears.

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I got 37% on a quiz I just took!

The author of the quiz said
If you want to brag to your friends about your score, and don't think they'll believe you if you just say that you got 37%, you can bookmark this page, or send them a link to it. Its full address is,

this here link with my actual answers

Feel free to link to this page from your own web site or web log, if you want, and don't forget to tell your friends how much fun it was. Lie, if you have to....

You can take the quiz again from the beginning by going to,
Estimation Quiz
to find out "How well do you know things that you don't really know?"

Do me a favor, if you intend to look at my results and then give me a bad time about some of my answers you think I should find particularly embarrassing: take the test yourself first and be prepared to send me the link to your results, too.

I don't know whether to brag or not: 37% doesn't look like a very high score. I suppose I could try to argue that this test is intended for Brits and several of the questions are very UK-specific. However, those weren't the only ones on which I scored poorly.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007


Florida to Export Housing Surplus

Well, not physically, just financially: sell it off at (maybe) bargain basement rates to foreigners with EUR to invest.

In "The United States of Subprime", Wall Street Journal Online (October 11, 2007), RICK BROOKS and CONSTANCE MITCHELL FORD note
Fort Myers, Fla., ... area's median sales price for existing homes is down 22% since December 2005. Foreclosures are running at an all-time high. And there is no end in sight.
and then, several paragraphs later

... This year, through July, the rate of mortgage-default and foreclosure-auction filings in Lee County, Fla., where Fort Myers is located, was second-highest in the U.S., according to ForeclosureS.com. The inventory of unsold homes has swelled to about 15,000, and some investors who had hoped to flip houses at a profit are walking away from sales contracts for purchases they don't want anymore or can't afford.

On October 12, in my inbox was an advertisement (not spam) from a French company promoting P******* Investments, Inc., which said (my translation from French to English, probably imperfect but with no intention to distort)
Become the owner of a superb villa in Florida...take advantage of the decline of the dollar exchange rate and of low interest rates. From €30,000 down.
  • Booming market
    • the American state with the highest growth rate
    • construction costs among the lowest in the country
  • A highly profitable investment
    • developer-direct prices, no agency fees
    • very favorable exchange rate
    • fiscal advantages...
  • Quality offerings guaranteed
    • thousands of villas delivered, prestigeous placement near major roads, service infrastructures (workplaces, schools, shopping centers, etc)
    • ten-year guarantee
    • numerous professional awards
  • Expertise of over 25 years' experience
    • our bilingual agents will meet you, arrange for accommodations, visits to the properties, meetings with the developers and bankers to enable you to evaluate your investment
    • total assistance with all formalities (legal, financial, fiscal)
    • real estate loans at preferential rates (from 1.5%)
    • locally-based French property management available
I wonder if similar ads are circulating in Germany. And what hurricane risks and insurance costs are in that area.

UPDATE: After I posted this yesterday, I thought a bit more about the significance. One interpretation is that it is a clear sign that the housing developers expect the price bubble to deflate; given that outlook, better sell to someone else, and let them (foreigners) take the destroyed value hit.

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Monday, October 08, 2007


Flat America

It was only background information on a ... a what? town, place, location, geo-entity, geo-demographic entity, geo-social entity, local society or sub-society? In a Wall Street Journal article titled "Where Has All The Oil Gone?", Ann Davis wrote about Cushing, Oklahoma.
Although Cushing isn't located on a major highway or railroad, it's one of the world's main oil junctions. It's home to just 8,500 people -- if you count the 1,000 or so prison inmates. Downtown has one stand-alone bar, the Buckhorn. At the movie theater near City Hall, tickets cost $1.50, $2 on weekends.

Okay, not a lot of potential movie-goers (I don't count the 1,000 or so prison inmates). But do they show movies, current movies, for that ticket price? Or do you have to buy $15 of popcorn to pass the concession stand and take a seat? Last time I went to a movie in France, it was over 8 € per person. I would like to know whether movies are shown to the public for a great loss in Cushing, Oklahoma, or a great, great margin in major cities.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007


Proofreader Shortage Strikes Again

Can you spot what seems to me to be an error in this article from the Wall Street Journal?
Upscale European Stores Mix With U.S. Discounter

By Ann Zimmerman
Word Count: 452 | Companies Featured in This Article: Target

Target Corp. is making its presence known across the pond, even though it doesn't have any stores outside the U.S.

Starting tomorrow, as London Fashion Week unfolds, shoppers at London-based Selfridges & Co. department store will sell for a limited time a collection of apparel created by British designer Alice Temperley for Target.

This is the latest in a long line of different buzz-inducing marketing ploys Target has employed over the years. It helped pioneer "pop-up" stores to temporarily sell its wares in areas bereft of a Target. Other retailers have ...

shoppers at London-based Selfridges & Co. department store will sell ? Really?

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