Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Mad Science: The Fiscal Cliff and The Energy Industry this week took a look at the Fiscal Cliff, and I guess I’m gonna lead with that because it doesn't seem like there’s a whole lot more going on.  I didn't love Slate’s take, but they do at least point out that the issue came up in the last debate--as “sequestration”--and that it’s a real thing.  Obama’s answer--that it can’t and won’t happen--isn't much of one, but I’m not sure what Romney added to the conversation beyond that--and the fact that he brought it up in the first place.

Having said that I don’t think much of the article, I’d still say that it’s still worth reading because a) it’s short, and b) there’s not much else that’s out there that covers this issue with anything like details and candidate positions.  Still, I don’t get the idea that the Fiscal Cliff is much of a policy issue for most voters, and more to the point, the only real policy difference that’s possible here is something along the lines of, “a vote for Romney is a vote for compromise because at least the House Republicans will compromise with a President from their own party.”  Maybe.  In any event, if Obama is re-elected, compromise with Congress--or vice versa, really--goes out the window, and the Fiscal Cliff becomes a much more likely scenario.

The iPad Mini made waves this week.
The iPad Mini came out this week, priced at $329.  That’s a good price because Apple has made a decision--a marketing decision, really--to aim for the premium end of the pool.  So at this point, regardless of whether or not they have the best hardware, truth is that they need to have the best, i.e. highest, prices in order to convince consumers that their stuff is the best.  I think it’s interesting to note that Microsoft has also staked out this end of the pool while Google, Amazon, and Samsung have tried to go the other way.  Meanwhile, the actual differences in hardware are very much open to debate.

With all of that said, for my own personal needs, I’m leaning towards one of the new 12” Samsung/Google chromebooks.  But then again, I do a lot of typing, so what I’ve realized is that I really need a keyboard.  Your mileage may vary.  

That said, I’m not much in love with the Google Drive word processor.  I’m using it now to create this issue of Friday Mad Science, and while it’s okay, it’s not as fast as a non-Net word processor, and more to the point, if there’s a way to change the magnification on the text size, I haven’t found it yet.  

Does anybody out there know if I can get OpenOffice to run on the new Chromebook?

I've been away on business this week--in exciting Albany, NY, if you’re wondering--and one of the things I've done while I’m here is to catch up on the new CW show Arrow.

I like the show, and from what I've seen and read, I’m not the only one.  Still, I think it’s kind of an indictment of the whole concept to acknowledge the reality, which is that the show succeeds best when it’s a more-or-less blatant rip-off of Batman.  Of course, that’s true of the original comic character as well, so maybe the fact that the Batman parallels are so obvious and continual throughout the show merely indicates that the show has done a good and faithful job of recreating the comic character on the small screen.

The new TV show Arrow appears to borrow heavily from the  Andy Diggle/Jock
joint Green Arrow: Year One.  For reference, Diggle and Jock are also responsible
for one of my all-time favorite comics, The Losers.
Anyway, there’s plenty of terrible TV out there, and with that in mind, I can think of plenty of worse says to waste time than watching what has so far been an at least decent adaptation of a pretty cool comic character.  I also like that the show is both darker and grittier than the character’s portrayal was in Smallville.

The last thing this week is just an observation--New York State is kind of a microcosm of everything that’s going on in this nation’s energy policy debate.  I've had a view of that debate from the cheap seats for quite some time now, but it seems like issues are coming to something of a head.  Right now we've got:

  • An abundance of natural gas, now (suddenly) readily available from Pennsylvania.  And perhaps from in-state resources as well.
  • Pressure on the state’s coal-fired generators, both from the newly cheap natural gas and from environmental regulations.
  • A bunch of hydro-power, both from in-state resources and from exports available from Canada.
  • Aggressive development of wind and solar energy in order to meet renewable energy goals.
  • Both expansion and contraction in the nuclear power market, from a variety of economic and political sources.
  • And an aggressively deregulated energy market that enables a boatload of what we might call destructively creative capitalism.

None of this is good or bad, but compared to the staid, conservative way that New York used to run its power sector, it’s both a substantial change and a significant challenge.  I bring all of this up because in the overview of the industry that I attended this morning, one of the things we discussed is the way in which the state is attempting to move itself forward.  That way is mapped out on what is to me a new website, the New York Energy Highway site.

I’ll recommend the site to anyone who wants to see a realistic view of the nation’s power sector, not just in New York but everywhere.  I think that the past decade or so has shown this state to be a kind of a bellwether of the industry, and this being an election year in which energy independence is something of a major concern, taking some time to at least leaf through what’s going on might be worth your time.

Take that for what it’s worth.

And that’s about all I’ve got.  It’s my wife’s birthday this weekend, and we've also got Giants/Cowboys on Sunday at four, so whatever else happens, it ought to be interesting.

Take care.


  1. What's particularly interesting about the energy issue is that the rest of the world has an extreme energy shortage. One that the US has the capacity to help solve, with both its talent and own natural resources.

    And more jobs would come as a result! Amazing!

  2. Y'know, I've heard discussion about exporting shale gas, but I gotta say that I'll believe it when I see it. I grant that gas is a global commodity, and that for the right price, exports make sense. But strategically, given this country's history, I just can't buy into that emotionally. When we have natural gas fired cars and are fully exploiting the power of the resource, then maybe. But until then, it strikes me that the production effort has a LONG way to ramp up. And not a lot of expertise available to aid in the effort.