Monday, May 31, 2010

These Made Me Ha-a-appy

I'm putting together a list of flicks for a fellow cinephile. The criteria for the list are (1) it should be something I think he hasn't seen and (2) it should have been made in the last ten years. There will be exceptions to the second criterion. It was originally going to be all Asian films, too, but there are just too many good ones made everywhere. Ultimately, they're in the list because watching them was profoundly pleasurable.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

When 5% is too much

It's just criminal that a single industry generates %5 of man-made carbon:

Cement manufacture contributes greenhouse gases both directly through the production of carbon dioxide when calcium carbonate is heated, producing lime and carbon dioxide, and also indirectly through the use of energy, particularly if the energy is sourced from fossil fuels. The cement industry produces about 5% of global man-made CO2 emissions, of which 50% is from the chemical process, and 40% from burning fuel. The amount of CO2 emitted by the cement industry is nearly 900 kg of CO2 for every 1000 kg of cement produced.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why do News Corp editorials hate reality?

In an interview in this week's edition of Barron's, Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, a fund with institutional assets of $75 billion, explains in six simple sentences why inflation is not a problem right now. This is from the print edition; the interview is available online to subscribers.

Explain why the printing of money won't cause inflation.

The printing of money will offset the deflation that is coming from the weak demand for goods and services due to weak credit growth. For example, in March of 1933 the U.S. printed a whole lot of money, and that had the effect of converting deflation into modest inflation, but not a high rate of inflation.... My point is, in developed countries there is too much of most things at the moment, ad that's creating a deflationary environment. There is too much manufacturing capacity. There is too much labor. There is too much housing stock.
Six sentences, including actual facts, spoken by someone who is actually responsible for other people's money (and a lot of it). Compare this to last week's inflation hawk editorial by Barron's editor Tom Donlan, in which he seems to desire to make the opposite case -- an argument for contractionary policies -- but instead wanders off on an embarrassing digression about old bonds and barely manages to burp out some you'll-be-sorry warnings about inflation.

This is another case of a financial paper's journalism being sane and the editorial pages being completely unhinged from reality. Where else does this happen? Why, Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp, which owns Fox News and, of course, Barron's.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

You would think that an editorial that's subtitled "If the Fed won't tighten up, we'll pay the price" would present a case for why the Fed should abandon the current policy of quantitative easing in favor of something more contractionary. That's what I expected when I turned to the last page of this week's print edition of Barron's, but that's not what found. Instead, Tom Donlan fills most of the page with a story about bonds issued three decades ago, the point of which appears to be that things don't always turn out as you expect. But saying, in short, "shit happens" isn't a compelling argument in favor of any particular policy, much less the one that the editorial piece ostensibly advocates. Does journalism get any lazier?

The article isn't completely free of argument. There is an inkling of one towards the end, where he writes "Wall Street doesn't have a money market; its interest rates reflect Fed policy, as do Main Street consumer prices." Now this isn't really an argument, but it's the closest Donlan gets to the kind of writing one expects in a piece advocating a Fed policy change. The dependent clause -- "as do Main Street consumer prices" -- is an assertion. And it's not false; Fed rates and the state of the economy as a whole are correlated. When the economy overheats, the Fed raises interest rates, and there's a recession of some magnitude. The Fed eventually responds by lowering rates, which lets economic growth resume. That's the standard picture.

From there, though, it just gets childish:

It's easy to imagine that inflation is irrelevant to a U.S. economy that's posting the lowest increases in consumer prices in 44 years. But "imagination is funny; it makes a cloudy day sunny," as Johnny Burke wrote for Frank Sinatra in 1940.

Sunny days of low inflation won't last.

And it would be easier for us to imagine that what he says actually matters if Donlan had bothered to make an argument. Low inflation won't last. So what? When inflation becomes palpable to Fed policy makers, they'll raise interest rates. But if there's no sign of inflation now, what reason is there for Fed policy to become contractionary now? Hello?

UPDATE: The New York Fed chairman disagrees with Donlan too.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I saw Bong Joon-Ho's "Mother" last night at the Lyric Cinema Cafe in Fort Collins. The style, theme, and humor are similar to his "The Host" and "Memories of Murder".

They're all awesome. "Memories of Murder" should have been on at least one major critic's best-of-decade list, but perhaps it was elided because Bong plays with genre too much to be considered alongside the directors of consistently sublime movies like "Syndromes and a Century" or "Yi Yi". In any case, if you like yourself some Asian cinema, watch "The Host", "Memories of Murder", and "Mother" (in order of accessibility).

Saturday, May 01, 2010

iPhone, Safari, and tel URI's

I think it's very cool that tapping a tel URI in Safari on an iPhone allows you to actually call the number. (A "tel URI" is basically a phone number link, similar to an "http:" or" mailto:" link, except it starts with "tel:".) Because not all phone numbers start with "tel:" on the Web, Safari tries to detect them so you can just tap and call, but it needs to be improved. For example, document citations often contain text that Safari wrongly believes is a phone number, such as the text after the comma in this fragment of a review: "No. 4, 541-578 (2009)". My phone thinks this is the number (541) 578-2009.

Futher brokenness is evident when I tap and hold the link: a pop-up menu appears with the option to "Call 541-578 (2009" (with no parenthesis at the end).