Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Year Without Summer?

Another gloomy and cold summer day in Northern Midwest: 57 F (14 C) and fog over Lake Superior around noon here in Duluth, MN. The forecast for the next few days is not much better. It looks like this will really be a summerless year.

This graph from Weather Underground shows how cold July has been according to historical Northland standards (with the exception of a few days, June was not much better too):

It's not only the Northland that's not seeing Summer this year. Here's the graph for Boston:
Here's the graph for New York City:

And here's the one for Chicago:

Pretty depressing all around...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bernanke on the Fed's Exit Strategy

Fed Chairman Bernanke has an article on the WSJ on how he expects the Fed to take us out of the liquidity swamp we find ourselves in right now (HT Mankiw). Here's his prognostic:
Overall, the Federal Reserve has many effective tools to tighten monetary policy when the economic outlook requires us to do so. As my colleagues and I have stated, however, economic conditions are not likely to warrant tighter monetary policy for an extended period. We will calibrate the timing and pace of any future tightening, together with the mix of tools to best foster our dual objectives of maximum employment and price stability.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Schwartz on Bernanke

Here's a sharp statement by Anna Schwartz regarding Bernanke's actions as Fed Chairman (HT Mankiw):
"What disturbed me particularly about Bernanke's performance was the insistence on bailouts," said Schwartz in a flood of passion. "If he had been absolutely candid to the markets and explained on what basis he would choose to bail out firms, and which ones he would not consider as meriting bailout, I think if the market had understood that he had principles and they would be able to understand a decision in light of these principles, there would have been much less bewilderment about why did they rescue Bear Stearns and pass over Lehman Brothers. Even though he has made a lot of rhetorical statements about the importance of transparency, he has not been transparent. I think that's a real failure. I think the Fed or the government has no business bailing out a firm that is not solvent."

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Basic Principle of a Working Democracy

The great Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz (pictured on the right) once summarized one of the basic principles of a working democracy (HT Escolhas e Consequências):
Politicians like diapers must be changed often and for the same reason.

A Video Game Wherein Ideas Have Consequences

Imagine a video game where "ideas have consequences," with flowcharts like this one:
Such a video game has yet been devised and its details have been worked out. You'll find the patent application here (HT Escolhas e Consequências).

The patent application has nothing less than 119 pages, including references to "communist vampires" and "Nazi zombies"... More details can be found here and here.

The application author is Dr. Elliot McGucken, a physicist and artistic entrepreneur. Here's his home page, and here's his short bio.

Friday, July 10, 2009

7th Art: The End of the Age of the DVD

Product life cycles have become shorter as technology advances. Even accomplished products are destined to enjoy brief lives now. Here's the magazine The Economist on the case of the DVD:
TEN years ago DVDs rejuvenated the film business, encouraging people to own films rather than simply watch them. But sales, which began declining gradually in 2006, are now falling more steeply. ... For the studios it is much more profitable to stream a film digitally or sell it through a cable operator as a video-on-demand (VOD).