Monday, March 29, 2010

Board Games

I played Settlers of Catan for the second time last weekend. I played it once in grad school, remembered it as awesome, so immediately grabbed it out of a box of games a friend brought when I saw it. It took forever to figure out the rules, but once you get going it is an amazing game.

While I don't know a lot about it, my understanding is that Settlers of Catan helped kick off a boom in game making which has produced a lot of great games. Some day I need to buy some of the other highly rated games such as Puerto Rico, or Power Grid.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Safest highways ever.

While the media has irrationally focused on the problems with cars made by Toyota (Toyotas are still very safe cars) the real story gets very little attention. Highway death rates are the lowest they have been since we started keeping records, in 1954. This drop has saved tens of thousands of lives, and the rate of decline is As high now as it has ever been.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Predicting Performance

The list of things that do not predict who is a good teacher always impresses me:

Among the factors that do not predict whether a teacher will succeed: a graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try.


Essentially everything people think they know about predicting performance appears to be wrong.

Cutting back on gasoline production

If there was ever strong evidence for peak oil, this is it. Even oil company insiders are realizing they have too many refineries for the amount of oil they will be producing in the near future.

Of course they typically blame demand. This is silly though. Five years ago many smart people were predicting $30 a barrel oil for decades. After all oil had stayed that price for decades, why would it change?

 Had a drop in demand been to blame economics 101 says oil prices today would be even lower than they were in 2000. Instead we find prices around three times as high. I see no evidence whatsoever that the world wouldn't consume as much $30 dollar a barrel oil as these refineries could produce. If demand is the problem why don't refineries lower the price of their product?

The answer is of course the raw material is too expensive. Refineries are  converting crude into gasoline at about the same cost they were a decade ago, but oil fields can, or will, no longer produce crude at this price.

The only two reasonable explanations for this are OPEC is finally restricting supply, or we are hitting(or more likely already hit) peak world oil production. As the biggest declines in production have come from the United States, the North Sea, and other mature fields peak oil is far more likely.