Showing posts from October, 2007

Oil peaked, but uranium can last us 'tens of thousands of years'

New Scientist relays an announcement by the German Energy Watch Group of a study showing that oil has peaked and that production will now decrease by 7% annually, halving by 2030. They also predicted "significant falls in gas, coal and uranium production".

This short 2004 article by James Hopf argues that the price of uranium contributes a radically lower share to nuclear power generation costs than is the case for coal or oil. According to Hopf, the cost of uranium ore could easily increase to $1000 per kilogram while contributing negligibly to the overall cost of nuclear power production. He quotes the 2004 price as $40/kg, and though it has bubbled considerably since then, the peak was $300 per kilogram in June, with the current price around $190.

The point Hopf makes is that uranium is abundant in sources such as granite, and even in seawater, so although extracting uranium from these sources may be costly, technologies such as breeder reactors make the acceptable cost thr…

Thoughts on development in St. Kitts, and some photos

We just love it here in St. Kitts. It's been almost 6 months since we arrived, and our experience has been decidedly optimistic. The island is brimming with development; it's hard to take a photo anywhere around Frigate Bay without capturing a site under construction. Much of this appears to be in anticipation of Christophe Harbour, a major development which is about to start on the south tip of the island. Initially, according to the recent announcement, there will be a mega-yacht harbour; two luxury hotels; and one more golf course. (Marriott already has one in the area where we live.)

This is great news for St. Kitts. On the one hand, development on this scale is a blessing; on the other, it is also urgently required. The government of the past 12 years has amassed a national debt exceeding US$1 billion, and the 2005 GDP of US$453 million is insufficient to allow a debt of this size to be gracefully repaid. In order to repay the spending of the past decade, the country would…

The Russians

There is much to be learned from people who occupied positions in the intelligence structures of communist countries, and chose to defect to the West. Unlike any other personal profile, these people combine (1) access to extremely privileged information - about facts, tactics, and strategies; and (2) a moral spine which eventually drove them to defect, as well as to speak publically and honestly about their experiences.

One of these people is Ion Mihai Pacepa, who since his defection in 1978 has published several books and in recent years written several fascinating articles, e.g. in 2006 The Kremlin's Killing Ways.

Another of these people is Yuri Bezmenov, apparently a Soviet intelligence agent who worked in India before defecting to the West in the late 1960s. An interview with him was released in 1984 by G. Edward Griffin, and Google Video features some very tasty bits of this interview. Another, shorter video on YouTube contains more background information but the editing is mor…

Prize for Achievement in African Leadership

Good work, Mr. Chissano, and great job, Mr. Ibrahim. I hope this works.

See also: You get what you pay for, or Thoughts in favor of much better compensation for elected officials.

Karl Dahlke and food additives

Today I stumbled upon Karl Dahlke's personal website. I found it while searching for information on how blind people interact with computers, which led me to his article on the value of the command line interface. I was impressed by his methodical approach in interacting with computers as a blind person - he has programmed his own directory listing utility as well as an editor-cum-browser to navigate the net. I went on to read other articles on his website, and I found his articles about his family's experience with foods and food additives to be of particular interest. It's fascinating stuff, the more so because he isn't indulging in panic fits and throwing around irrational arguments mostly centered around "going back to nature" (whatever that means) like so many people who argue against anything "artificial" (so bread grows on trees?); but he is instead methodically documenting his own, his wife's and his children's experience with certai…

The fallacy of stagnating middle-class income

The Economist's Free Exchange blog refutes the common proposition claiming that income disparity has grown while middle-class income has not increased over decades. They quote Terry J Fitzgerald, senior economist at the Minneapolis Fed:Rather than falling by 4 percent over the past 30 years, average hourly earnings have actually risen by 16 percent. Growth in the median hourly wage went from 12 percent to a more respectable 28 percent.Large gains at the top end of the wage distribution might seem to be accompanied by flat wages at the bottom, but that is not the case. Wage gains at the lower end of the distribution held up fairly well. Wage growth rates at the 10th and 20th percentiles were only slightly below the median growth rates, increasing by 17 percent and 18 percent, respectively. While these data confirm that wage inequality increased since 1975, they also confirm that a broad swath of middle America experienced notable hourly wage gains.While Russ Roberts says:In 1970, a…

Cool stuff: skrbl

I was thinking it would be cool to have a simple, easy to use website that you could use as a whiteboard - some place you could go with your browser and type stuff for others to see, allow others to edit it, and immediately see their edits. It seemed like this would be a useful tool for teams collaborating over distances, or even conducting an online programming job interview - talk to the person you're interviewing via Skype, telephone, or chat, and have them write an algorithm on the virtual whiteboard so that you can see them as they're progressing. Beats having to shell out for hotels and airplane tickets, especially if it's for someone who doesn't really know how to code. :)

A quick web search reveals that such tools already exist, and I tried a few of them. The best one for my needs turned out to be skrbl. It's straightforward - creating a new whiteboard session takes just one click and requires no registration. Anyone can join simply by sharing with them the …

The Economist's blog on Newsweek happiness

The Economist's Free Exchange blog publishes an excellent post about the bullshit that liberal arts graduates who found jobs as newswriters try to sell you in mainstream media - specifically it addresses the "Why money does not buy happiness" thesis that's frequently being sold. The Economist writes:As Paul Ormerod and Helen Johns note in their outstanding and completely non-confused monograph, "Happiness, Economics, and Public Policy", the trend in average self-reported happiness correlates well with almost nothing. Increasing inequality, for example, has also done nothing to the happiness trend. (Why don't we hear more about this?) They find a weak statistically significant positive correlation with happiness and higher crime. Yeah, weird. They also note that the variance in average self-reported happiness is often greater within a given year than between years. This is all suggests that the time-series data on average self-reported happiness contain …

Technical: OctAlloc improved

I wrote previously about my attempts to engineer a concurrency-friendly memory allocation algorithm for Windows platforms that would be efficient for the most demanding multi-threaded and multi-core use.

I made available in the previous post an implementation, OctAlloc, which performs way better than the default heap allocator in Windows XP or 2003, and fares well against the Vista allocator in highly concurrent situations, but is less performant than the Vista allocator for single-threaded multi-core use.

I have since made two optimizations to OctAlloc which improve its performance beyond the Vista allocator in all respects. The optimizations are as follows:The previously posted version of OctAlloc uses thread-local storage to store the most likely CPU number that the current thread is running on. The TlsGetValue() and TlsSetValue() operations this requires are however somewhat expensive, and do not pay off when there's only a single thread. The new version uses a less reliable, mo…

New photos since May

It's been several months since I last posted our photos. We gathered a small collection since then, the largest part of it during our trip in August to Las Vegas. Here they are.

St. Kitts

Las Vegas & the Grand Canyon

Our apartment - building progress: June 3

September 8