July 2010 Archives

Oil is disappearing from the Gulf of Mexico faster than expected.

"That oil is somewhere. It didn't just disappear," said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

Salvador Cepriano is one of the men searching for crude. Cepriano, a shrimper, has been laying out boom with his boat, but he's found that there's no oil to catch. ...

Even the federal government admits that locating the oil has become a problem.

"It is becoming a very elusive bunch of oil for us to find," said National Incident Cmdr. Thad Allen.

The numbers don't lie: two weeks ago, skimmers picked up about 25,000 barrels of oily water. Last Thursday, they gathered just 200 barrels.

Still, it doesn't mean that all the oil that gushed for weeks is gone. Thousands of small oil patches remain below the surface, but experts say an astonishing amount has disappeared, reabsorbed into the environment. ...

The light crude began to deteriorate the moment it escaped at high pressure, and then it was zapped with dispersants to speed the process along. The oil that did make it to the ocean's surface was broken up by 88-degree water, baked by 100-degree sun, eaten by microbes, and whipped apart by wind and waves.

Wait a second... am I supposed to believe that a supposed environmental catastrophe has turned out to not be as bad as everyone predicted? Impossible!

A very cool set of fantasy artwork created using 8-bit color and HTML 5. Makes me nostalgic for the games I played as a kid... and it makes me wish I had any artistic ability whatsoever.

(HT: RC.)

Wired has some awesome cockpit pictures, including the SR-71 Blackbird, 787 Dreamliner, and a monster truck.

(HT: GeekPress.)

Megan McArdle explains that the academic tenure system damages professors, schools, and students.

The arguments for academic tenure have always struck me as pretty weak, and more to the point, transparently self-serving. The best you can say of the system is that it preserves a sort of continuity in schools that is desireable for the purposes of cultivating alumni donations. But the cost of such a system is simply staggering.

Consider what the academic job market now looks like. You have a small elite on top who have lifetime employment regardless of how little work they do. This lifetime employment commences somewhere between 35 and 40. For the ten-to-fifteen years before that, they spend their lives in pursuit of the brass ring. They live in poverty suck up to professors, and publish, for one must publish to be tenured. It's very unfortunate if you don't have anything much worth saying; you need to publish anyway, in order to improve your chances. Fortunately, for the needy tenure seeker, a bevy of journals have sprung up that will print your trivial contributions. If nothing else, they provide a nice simple model which helps introductory economics professors explain Say's Law.

At the end of the process, most of the aspirants do not have tenure; they have dropped out, or been dropped, at some point along the way. Meanwhile, the system has ripped up their lives in other ways. They've invested their whole youth, and are back on the job market near entry level at an age when most of their peers have spent ten years building up marketable skills. Many of them will have seen relationships ripped apart by the difficulties of finding not one, but two tenure-track jobs in the same area. Others will have invested their early thirties in a college town with no other industry, forcing them to move elsewhere to restart both their careers and their social lives. Or perhaps they string along adjuncting at near-poverty wages, unable to quite leave the academy that has abused them for so long.

And so forth. I was fortunate to recognize the silliness of tenure early in graduate school; I avoided most of the nonsense that typical tenure-aspirants deal with in hope of landing a tenure track job after earning their doctorate. I decided to go into industry, and am very glad that I did.

It blows my mind to read about the explosion of new believers in China:

In this part of the country, every small village has at least one church, and each shows signs of being carefully tended. One has a door curtain made from a patchwork of rice sacks; another, a hand-sewn altar curtain, complete with a white appliqued cross.

Local ministers say that about 10 percent of the population in this part of China is Protestant, but all believe that the real figure may be much higher.

Gray Areas Governing Religion

No one knows exactly how many Christians there are among China's population of 1.3 billion. There are an estimated 21 million members of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic movement, but nobody knows how many Protestants worship in unregistered house churches.

What an amazing work of God. It's easy to get near-sighted and forget that God isn't just at work in my life, my town, and my country, but all around the world.

Barry Cipra examines the math behind the decennial apportionment of Congressional seats. It's geeky and political!

Ralph Kinney Bennett points out that the great strength of the automobile is its potential.

The automobile’s potential is its greatest secret—an open secret and yet, it often seems, a forgotten one. The big SUV in my garage may occasionally make a 10-mile trip to Walmart or 2-mile run to the volunteer fire station when the siren sounds. But it has the potential—the size, the power, the range—to take me, my friends, and our bicycles over the mountain to a distant bike trail, or 1,100 miles with a load of furniture and books to my son’s house in Florida.

A century ago, the gasoline-powered automobile revolutionized personal mobility. It did it so profoundly and swiftly as to make it a routine aspect of our daily lives. Wide-ranging mobility is so normal that many people, particularly in the anti-car crowd, have forgotten its importance. On whatever day you may happen to read this, Americans will travel 11 billion miles in their cars, going to work or to lunch with friends, shopping, visiting the doctor or dentist, picking up materials for a home project, transporting kids to soccer or a pet to the vet—compacting into a few hours tasks which, had they even been contemplated before the automobile, would have taken carefully planned days or weeks.

This marvelous potential, whether we use it a little or a lot, is woven deeply and invisibly into the fabric of our economy and of our lives. We Americans do not buy cars merely to get from point A to point B. We do not buy cars to meet average 20- to 40-mile-per-day travel expectations. We buy them with the idea that they can take us where and when we want to go, day or night, good weather or bad. What’s more, we buy them for their potential to carry not just ourselves but our families, friends, poker cronies, softball teammates, dogs and cats, antiques, tools, fishing rods, Avon deliveries, picnic lunches, easels and paints, Salvation Army donations, church bazaar cookies, saddles and tack, groceries, vacation paraphernalia, and whatever else we may dream of with some degree of comfort and safety across town or country. And, oh, yes, we might be dragging a boat or a couple of dirt bikes or a pony trailer behind us as well.

Until electric vehicles can match this potential, it doesn't matter if they can meet the needs we face on 95% of our days.

(HT: Instapundit.)

Deficit spending is taxing future citizens without their consent:

Not to go all 1776 on you, but: You want to talk about taxation without representation? That’s exactly what we’re engaging in: taxing the future to meet present wants, without ever having the common courtesy to ask the future whether it wants to accept a social contract that is radically different from the one we inherited. Picture a bunch of angry babies with muskets and tri-corner hats: You think the tea-party protesters are overflowing with high dudgeon, just wait until you see the poor people who actually get the bill. They don’t get a vote, which is why we have to look after the interests of the future today. And looking after the interests of the future in the present is one possible working definition of conservatism, is it not?

What does America have in common with every third-world country? Our capital city is now also our richest city.

According to a new Regional Income Earnings Index developed by the Martin Prosperity Institute, Greater Washington, D.C. is the nation's metropolitan region with the highest income. The index measures income trends across all 342 of America’s metro regions.

Seems like an indicator that political power is often abused for personal profit.

Tax dollars will be spent to kill babies:

The Obama administration has officially approved the first instance of taxpayer funded abortions under the new national government-run health care program. This is the kind of abortion funding the pro-life movement warned about when Congress considered the bill.

The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new "high-risk" insurance program under a provision of the federal health care legislation enacted in March.

It has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of pro-abortion Governor Edward Rendell under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.

Nice work, Bart Stupak. This blood is especially on your hands.

The most interesting aspect of BAE's new Taranis UAV is that it appears to possess autonomous air-to-air combat capabilities.

The Taranis, named after the Celtic god of thunder, is about the same size as a Hawk jet and is equipped with stealth equipment and an 'autonomous' artificial intelligence system. ...

Taranis will be stealthy, fast, able to carry out use a number of on-board weapons systems and be able to defend itself against manned and other unmanned enemy aircraft.

Most policy makers are extremely wary of trusting autonomous systems with firing authority of any kind. I'm moderately skeptical of the claims made in the article.

Matt Welch waxes nostalgic over pro-capitalism Democrats from the 1990s.

But there’s a larger disconnect here. Twenty years is a long time for ideas to percolate. Younger voters and pundits supported Obama without understanding why Democrats were saddled with the “big government” label in the first place. The only Democratic president in their memory was also the only one who didn’t seriously goose the size of government. And the Democrat who won in 2008 was a serious-sounding fellow from the University of Chicago who repeatedly promised “pay as you go” budgeting, no tax increase for 95 percent of Americans, and a “net spending cut.”

Did these liberals—some of whom frequently flashed their free trade credentials during the Bush administration—just forget what they used to believe? Or are they suppressing their principles until Obama announces that the economic crisis has finally been solved and we can resume regularly scheduled fiscal sobriety? Either way, their ongoing silence has to count as one of the great underreported political stories of the Obama presidency.

The New Democrats may be gone, but many of their worst policies—on criminal justice and foreign policy especially—are still locked into place. We replaced politically insincere, base-distancing market enthusiasts with deadly serious, interest-group-embracing Keynesians. Come back, 1990s. All is forgiven.

Save us Bill Clinton!

Georgian woman claims to be 130 years old.

Authorities in the former Soviet republic of Georgia claim a woman from a remote mountain village turned 130 on Thursday, making her the oldest person on Earth.

Antisa Khvichava from western Georgia was born on July 8, 1880, said Georgiy Meurnishvili, spokesman for the civil registry at the Justice Ministry.

The woman, who lives with her 40-year-old grandson in an idyllic vine-covered country house in the mountains, retired from her job as a tea and corn picker in 1965, when she was 85, records say.

Possible, but unlikely in my opinion.

How much do online leadership and corporate leadership have in common?

Think you need expensive MBAs to rise to the top of one of the world's biggest businesses? Don't tell Starbucks CIO Stephen Gillett.

Gillett does actually have an MBA (from San Francisco State, as it happens), but according to a report in Forbes, one expert credits Gillett's time as a guild leader in leading massively-multiplayer online game World of Warcraft for his "meteoric rise."

According to Gillett's former boss John Hagel III, speaking at a leadership conference, successful guild leaders need "a high degree of influence...you have to be able to influence and persuade people--not order them to do things. Ordering people in most of these guilds doesn't get you far."

Running a guild on an online game is basically like running a large, active club in "real life". It won't be long before these kinds of online activities become more prominent on resumes outside the pure software industry.

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