Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Links

  • The above is from a Merrill Lynch survey of global fund managers as to which tail risks worry them most.
  • Automation is the reason why the last few US recoveries have been jobless.
  • UK slowing down on offshore wind power.
  • Some suggestions on household resilience to simultaneous gasoline and power outages.  I've been doing a lot of thinking on related lines following hurricane Sandy, as well as a scary brush with Irene and Lee last year, and in expectation of more frequent extreme weather events in future.  I was already planning to buy a diesel tractor next spring to help manage my family's rural property with the view to running it on waste oil biodiesel during the growing season and regular diesel out of season (when biodiesel gels).  You can buy generators that run off a tractor PTO and I'm thinking that's the way to go.  Diesel stores much better than gasoline, and that way I don't have to buy an extra diesel engine (which will be expensive and inevitably be indifferently maintained during long periods of disuse).
  • Nate Silver's data-centric election analysis triumphs.
  • I very often disagree with the Archdruid since he frequently gets quantitative issues wrong and doesn't seem to revise his views much based on incoming data.  Nonetheless, I'm still reading him seven years after I first came across his writings, because he's an unusual and creative thinker  who makes intellectually stimulating forays into history that I don't know about.  In particular, his last six posts are a fictional account of one possible way the US global empire-lite might end in the 2030s, and a discussion of the historical analogies he used in constructing the scenario.  It's worth a read if you have the time.
  • Level of unplanned outages amongst non-OPEC oil producers: 


Greg said...

Re automation: The graph of routine employment that Kevin Drum reproduced reminds one of another graph: sea ice volume.

The sea ice graph is random noise superimposed on a quadratically declining trend. The employment chart looks like a cycle superimposed on a quadratically declining trend.

It's interesting to note that trading credit-default swaps is now automatable routine work:

It's not just back office work that is being automated now.

sunbeam said...

I'd suggest you look at one of those diesel powered welding machines, the kind used in construction. You can get a wheeled frame suitable for pulling it behind a truck to mount it on.

I priced these around 1993, and they were about $2000 I think then. I don't know what a wheel rig for it would cost.

I suggest this because they are very durable, and have a higher output than any generator you are going to buy. Plus you get a welding machine, which is always useful to have around.

I'm sure you can see one on display at any welding supplies store.

oji said...

I'd be interested in a critique of JMG's quantitative errors, if you have the time and inclination. Thank you.

Stuart Staniford said...

oji: one example would be:

sunbeam said...

About what Greg posted, anyone else wonder if the next large scale redundancies made by automation might be further up the earnings tree than most have speculated?

Some of those wall street types make serious money, you've got a lot of knowledge about this sort of thing in close proximity to investment capital and programming talent.

I always figured it would stalk fast food employment first, but what if FIRE is the next domino to fall?onlyete

A Quaker in a Strange Land said...

I have been considering a PTO driven generator myself as I have seen them in action here. Diesel is the way to go for any farm/home engine as far as storage and safety.

I have an old Ford 4000 52HP diesel tractor that I bought for little more than a good diesel generator costs.

Stuart Staniford said...

Greg J: one reader cautioned me by email that the fuel efficiency of the combination is not that great, so that might be something to do further research on.

Are you happy with the reliability/features of the old tractor vs a new compact?

Stuart Staniford said...

sunbeam: I'm not particularly well informed about Wall St but I am reasonably well informed about Silicon Valley. There is no clearly forseeable near-term threat to software engineers and computer scientists - if anything the demand for us is just getting higher and higher to tell all these computers what to do. Probably we'll be the last to go - once the machines don't need human programmers, they pretty much won't need humans at all.

sunbeam said...

I was actually referring to a lot of white collar employment in insurance, real estate, and in the finance sector.

Lucas Durand said...

Regarding old tractors vs. new compact tractors...

Figure out how much hard work you will actually be doing with your tractor - will you just be moving things around a little or running a generator once in a while or will you be plowing for hours on end?

If the former, then consider getting an older tractor - you can often get much more tractor for less money and as long as you aren't going to use it too hard, then it should last for ages with routine maintenance. I'd aim for something in the 50-60 h.p. range.

If the later, then consider a newer machine - although you may be shocked at how expensive they get. Although a little Kubota with a loader and hoe look cool, I have found that they are so small as to be ineffectual for anything outside of simple yard work.

sunbeam said...

I think you ought to get something like this:

I don't know how much a generator that runs off a PTO costs, but the item I'm referring to is probably much heavier duty.

The link I supplied is to a Chinese make. Personally I'd try to get something by a maker like Miller, but they never seem to give you a price up front, it's always contact a salesman.

Here's a link to the Miller page if this kind of thing interests you:

Greg said...

More automation, "human resources" this time:-

"If you take the time to fill in a job application, you might think someone would at least have the courtesy to actually look at it.

But as more and more job applications are made online, companies are increasingly turning to computer programs to help manage the load."