Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Live-Blogging My Son's Wedding Reception

My son and his bride will be using my laptop to show a slideshow she put together of photos of each of them from childhood until now. I figure, "What the hey? My laptop on location with wi-fi? Why don't I just live-blog the reception? You know, tell you about how inappropriate the toast is from the best man? Whine to you about how the truly disgusting music is too loud? Tell you about how I got drunk and fell onto the wedding cake? Tell about some of the missable exchanges between me and my ex and her family? Nah.

I think everyone there would be pretty upset if I told stories on the blog about how the men in the wedding party stayed out too late the night before the wedding, deciding they would drink beer at a particular place until it looked good to them. So I won't. My expectation is that the incremental costs of doing any of these things would outweigh the incremental benefits, and so I'll pass.

Starbucks and Wireless Computing

Two of my friends have mentioned in not-very-recent postings that they enjoyed being able to blog from a Starbucks coffee shop that provided wireless internet access.

From Alan Adamson of Silly Little Country, writing from England,

My gosh, why would someone in a lovely old town like York in Yorkshire go to a Starbucks's?Air-conditioning on yet another tropical Yorkshire day, quick efficient service, coffee to taste, Ella Fitzgerald on the sound system, and a TMobile HotSpot.
The hotspot didn't work, though, and he was referred to a different Starbucks:

I complained, as it turned out, to Katie. She spent ten minutes calling tmobile to sort it out and rebooted the local box. Finally she found a nearby Starbuck's for me to go to, refunding my coffee in the process. Now I am connected, and sitting in a sumptuous chair, and listening to John Fogerty singing 'Centerfield'. Not a bad trade.
I know why I look for these places rather than the local places that serve bad coffee and have no amenities.
And from King Banaian of SCSU Scholars, blogging from the Western Economic Association meetings in San Francisco:

A young scholar and I agreed to meet after my session and lunch (thanks for the sandwich, Edi!) and, since we both have laptops in search of connectivity, went to look for a Starbucks.
A number of friends and I meet for coffee from time-to-time at a Starbucks in London, Ontario (usually Thursday mornings during the academic year). We are, quite frankly, relieved that the place where we meet has no intention of joining the trend in most Starbucks and putting in a wireless router for its patrons. If they did, the place would be congested with "chatters" and "surfers", and there would be little space for those of us who like to meet and talk while having coffee. The management at this outlet knows that putting in wireless internet would probably reduce their profits, and so they have no plans to do so -- at least not for now. Part of the problem is that every chair filled by a student, sitting, surfing, and chatting for hours on end at this particular outlet, is a chair not being filled by three or four regular paying customers

And yet I'm glad to know that most Starbucks have wi-fi. That knowledge comes in handy when I'm traveling.

Apologies to My Friends

I'm in a location this weekend where it is fairly difficult to take and answer e-mail. I appreciate the messages, and I'm reading them, but I may not be able to respond for a few days.

Thanks to BenS, Jack, Pedro, Alan, Brian, Pooh, JR, JohnH, and Phil in particular.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lying and Coin-Tossing

If 14,0o0 different people toss fair coins 9 times, roughly how many of these people would you expect to get a heads 9 times in a row? About 27 or 28? [.5**9 = 1/512] Would you deem these people "expert coin tossers" and spend more time studying their coin-tossing techniques?

Alternatively, if you have 14,000 test subjects and they all have an equal, 50% chance of detecting whether someone is lying, roughly how many of the subjects might guess right 9 times in a row? about 27 or 28?

Is all this due to randomness?

A succession of studies using tests like this have shown that most of us are not very good at spotting if someone is lying. Even people whose job it is to detect deception - police officers, FBI agents, therapists, judges, customs officers, and so on - perform, on average, little better than if they had taken a guess. ... But a few people seem to be the exceptions that prove the rule. ... In a range of studies that totalled about 14,000 people, ... The researchers identified 29 "wizards" of deception detection, who are now the subject of intensive study.
I'm sure there is much more to the studies, [in particular, I don't know the number of trials] but this snippet reminds me of people who think a given financial analyst is great because s/he got lucky 4 or 5 years in a row.

What is the Price Elasticity of Supply for Housing?

There is no doubt that much of the run-up in housing prices during the past few years has been demand-driven. Low mortgage rates, combined with zero-principal mortgages and rising incomes have all contributed to the increased demand. [i.e. declining prices of complements and increased incomes both shift the demand curve to the right].

But it appears that housing prices have risen much more in some places than in others. One possible explanation for this differential is that demand has increased more in the big cities than it has in smaller towns. Another is that supply curves are steeper in big cities than in smaller towns. If this sounds a bit like Henry George land-based economic analysis, it probably is.

For the large, megalopoli on the coasts, the price elasticity of supply appears to be low, in part because of regulations and in part because of geography-induced land shortages. From the weekly newsletter from Smart Economist [see the Blogad on the right], summarizing a recent paper:
On the whole the paper contains an important message: public intervention in the housing market may have strong, sometimes undesirable, and perhaps even unintended effects on supply, and therefore on the price of houses.
At the same time, in the Midwest (generally speaking) and in smaller towns, growing demand has not caused massive price increases for housing because the price elasticity of supply is considerably higher -- developers turn more farmland into suburban developments in response to relatively small price increases with considerably less difficulty than in areas surrounding the large cities.

The result is that we have seen what many have dubbed a "housing bubble" in large cities, but increased demand either hasn't reached smaller urban areas, or, if it has, it hasn't had nearly the same effect on prices.

In the extreme, the supply curve is very steep in large cities and more nearly flat in smaller urban areas. Under these conditions, equal shifts to the right of the demand curves cause big price increases in the big cities and smaller changes in the smaller cities.


Which Sunscreen is Best?

Slate has an article by Douglas Wolk evaluating sunscreens. His conclusion?

As it turned out, every sunblock did its primary job fine. (I asked Dr. Walter G. Larsen, a Portland, Ore., dermatologist and skin-cancer expert, if there were particular sunblocks he recommended. "They're all pretty good these days," he shrugged.)
But effective protection against UVA and UVB is not the only thing people care about when buying sunscreen. They also look at water resistance, smell, greasiness, gloppiness, ease of application, and a host of other considerations. Maximizing utility requires optimizing across many different variables.

And on these criteria, reasonable people may differ; nevertheless, you might be interested in his assessments.

Blogger vs. Haloscan

I would like to switch back to Blogger comments, but have not been successful due my total ignorance of html. If you have been trying to leave comments but have been unable to do so, please let me know: jpalmer at uwo dot ca. Thanks.

Also, if you're an html wizard and you know the Blogger software well, I'd appreciate suggestions. I have tried the suggestion on the Blogger help page, but to no avail.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What is "Excess Supply"?
What is an excess function?

Over and over and over, we hammer into our introductory economics students that a change in price causes a change in the quantity supplied. "Quantity supplied" is a function of price (and a host of other variables), and we refer to this function as "supply". In other words,

Supply is a function, not a quantity.
So how is it possible to have an "excess supply"? What on earth is an excess function? I really doubt that most people mean some sort of excess supply function when they say "excess supply".
What we really mean is, "an excess quantity supplied at a given price [which is above the market-clearing price]." And yet, I don't know of any textbooks (other than my own) that talk about it this way.


Sudoku puzzles are puzzles in logic. Even though they can be constructed with any set of nine symbols, most are done with numbers because numbers are easier to work with.

The goal is to fill in all the blank squares with the digits one through nine so that each box of nine squares, each column, and each row contains each of the digits only once.

The logic for solving them reminds me, in some vague way, of playing minesweeper.

Here is a link to one site, where you can sample or purchase software that generates Sudoku puzzles on your PC.

Alternatively if you like the puzzles, there are plenty of Sudoku books available. These days, Ms. Eclectic seems hooked on this one (note: it is pretty cheap at Wal-Mart, too; geez, I wish they'd go on-line in Canada).
. . . . . . . . .

For My Students:
Links for required textbooks

Some time ago, I proposed to our economics department that we establish and Chapters/Indigo affiliate accounts to make it possible for students to order their texts and study guides on-line, with the commissions from the sales going to the department; I even offered to co-ordinate the programme. My proposal was declined, lamenting "the unfortunate trend of commercialization within the university."

So if students in my courses would like to order their textbooks for the fall term from or from Chapters/Indigo, either to get them now, before coming to campus in the fall, or possibly at a discount, here are the links:

Economics 020 (Introductory Economics):
The Economics Way of Thinking by Paul Heyne and John Palmer
Click here to order it from Chapters, or click below to order it from

There is also a Canadian study guide required, but it is not available from either or from Chapters.
Economics 260 (Honours Intermediate Micro):
I realize this text is pricey, but it's for two terms.
Microeconomics by Besanko and Braeutigam, Second Edition!! plus the Study Guide

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Trade-Offs: How Much Would It Take to Get You to Miss Your Son's Wedding?

My younger son, Adam Smith Palmer, is getting married soon. We're all looking forward to the big event.

The other day, I received a request from a producer to do some acting the same day as my son's wedding. Of course I declined the offer................

................ but then I got to wondering, "What if the acting gig had involved a considerable amount of money [in my dreams!]? How much would they have had to offer me to get me to miss the wedding?" I don't know, but I expect my reservation price is very high.
Nevertheless, for $10m, I would give it serious consideration, especially if he and his bride were willing to be bribed not to have me there (i.e., if I could share some of the earnings with them).

I know some people who think Adam and his bride should bribe me not to show up anyway....

Supply Curves Slope Upward;
People Respond to Incentives

Most introductory economics students have been able to predict this. The U.S. gubmnt guaranteed an above-equilibrium price for peanuts and eliminated acreage restrictions with the result that .... surprise!.... people raised more peanuts.
Despite recent growth in peanut consumption, Americans use only about 1.6 million tons a year and another 300,000 to 400,000 tons are exported.

That leaves a surplus of about 485,000 tons.

Farmers won't lose because their government crop program guarantees them $355 per ton. The losers could be federal taxpayers who pay the difference between the guaranteed price and the actual market value of the peanuts.

... Peanut acreage has increased after the elimination of the old Depression-era peanut program in 2002. That opened the door for peanut farming in new areas.

This year, more farmers opted to grow peanuts because it seemed to have the best economic potential when compared with cotton, corn and soybeans...
Meanwhile, of course, the bureaucrats are trying to figure out what to do with the excess quantity supplied. I have a suggestion: get rid of the price guarantee.

Doesn't anyone ever teach these folks anything about economics???? groan....

[h/t to Jack]

I Repeat: Canada Needs a Nuclear Weapons Programme

The International Atomic Energy Agency, along with everyone else imaginable, has exhibited a continuing failure to deter Iran and North Korea from developing their own nuclear weapons programmes [also see this, though I cannot vouch for it]. In light of these failures, I would like, once again, to urge that Canada plan to develop its own nuclear weapons programme.

The threat of developing nuclear weapons clearly elicits promises of aid; these promises tend to kept, though not always. The promises of aid are accompanied by threats of diplomatic reactions, which are usually empty and meaningless, of the following type:

You had better stop or face serious diplomatic consequences; or
Dismantle your programme or we'll tell Kofi Anan on you.
In other words, there is little to lose and much to gain from this strategy. I wrote about the proposal earlier here and here. Here is an excerpt:

The U.S. has shown with both Iran and North Korea, especially when pressured by other gubmnts, that it is willing to try to buy off the gubmnts of other countries that appear to be well along the way toward development of nuclear weapons.

For this strategy to work, the Canadian gubmnt would have to get the project well underway, lest the U.S. treat us like Iraq: invade us and demolish it, or hire the Israelis to do it for them [or just nuke us 'til we glow]. But once Canada has a few nukes pointed at New York City, Washington DC, or Burbank California, it would be difficult for the U.S. to threaten pre-emptive strikes. And then we could talk about maybe, possibly dismantling our programme depending on the U.S. position on softwood lumber, beef, and many other trade issues.

I am not a political insider. For all I know, the Canadian gubmnt is already on this path. Let's face it, we have plenty of uranium and a well-developed nuclear power industry, and so movements in this direction would not be out of the question.
I guess it isn't very libertarian of me to propose that the federal gubmnt embark on another spending programme.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I See No Reason for Such ad hominems

What does Jack Shafer have against Richard Posner? He is at it again in Slate.
The bloggers, politicians, and op-ed dimwits who disparage the press often attribute the decline of press credibility to journalistic frauds committed by such miscreants as former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, who fabricated and plagiarized for months and months at his paper without getting caught, or other fabulists such as former USA Today reporter Jack Kelley, former Associated Press reporter Christopher Newton, and former New Republic writer Stephen Glass.
The link inside the quotation is to the NYTimes piece by Richard Posner about the changing news media. I certainly did not see it as disparaging to the MSM; rather it was more in the nature of positive economic analysis, a set of testable hypotheses and predictions.

Posner is anything but a dimwit.

"If That's Faith, Then I Guess I've Found Religion"

Kip Esquire at A Stitch in Haste takes on the supporters of the Intelligent Design historical descriptions of human existence.

There is not a single piece of evidence, not one, that disproves the theory of evolution. There is not a single piece of evidence, not one, that supports the "theory" of intelligent design (which is not really a scientific theory at all).
He concludes,

Those of us who accept evolution as the obvious explanation of the history of life on earth do so not on "faith" or "deference to authority." The only "faith" we have is in the evidence of our senses and the capacity of our rational faculty to figure it out.

... If that's "faith," then I guess I've found religion.
There's much more. His arguments are thorough and worth reading.

Well, what if our "universe" is just a super-brane in an 11-dimensional universe, as seems to be implied by super-string theory?

The Changing Value of a Seat on the NYSE

Paul Kedrosky at Infectious Greed has a chart showing the nominal and deflated price of a seat on the NYSE.
Given yesterday's record (in current dollars) $3-million sale of a New York Stock Exchange seat, I thought it would be interesting to show readers my own chart of inflation-adjusted historical NYSE prices. I average the prices for each year, and then bring it all to 2005 dollars. As you can see, we haven't yet returned to boom time levels, now are we anywhere near where NYSE seats changed hands back in the early 1930s:

To tell the truth, I am surprised that a seat on the NYSE is valued so highly. My understanding is that the value of seats depends on volume and on the commission per transaction. Granted, volume may be growing, but I had thought commissions were under constant competitive pressure.

Anyway, I think Paul overstates the effect. $3m (in 2005 dollars) for a seat is tied for the 2nd highest price on his chart.

Competition, Entry, and Future Slowth in China

Ben Muse pointed to this insightful description of the changes and competition to be expected between Chinese and other newly industrializing economies. If this analysis is even close to correct, then as entrepreneurs in other countries begin to out-compete Chinese firms, there will be a slow-down in economic growth in China [slowth], leading to more domestic unrest there. [I realize this is a long quote; if you're in a hurry, just skip to the last paragraph.]
For over twenty years now China has managed to benefit from a fortuitous set of circumstances. It has a relatively educated and low-wage workforce. It has set up a legal regime very friendly to foreign companies. It has actively sought out foreign investment. It has actively sought to import foreign technology. And it has not had to compete against other countries for that investment or technology.

Reasonably though, how long can that last characteristic of China's success continue? How long can it depend on the incompetence of other countries' leaders for its own success? China's growing heft in East Asia and the world more generally is real enough, but I can't help but think that this weakness will grow more dangerous as time goes on.

The scale of China is often too shocking to completely comprehend. I can't imagine all of the problems its leaders face: agrarian unrest as urban centers rapidly modernize, the East/West economic divide, managing all of the nationalities of Beijing's empire, finding an international role conmeasurate with its clout. And of all of this without even pretending to have the legitimacy of being democratically elected.

For these twenty and more years what Beijing has had was the legitimacy that economic affluence can buy. Only once has it dropped the ball, allowing inflation to careen out of control at the end of the 1980s, one of the reasons why Beijing's citizens decided to support the university students at Tiananmen rather than stay indoors. Since then Beijing has managed the economy relatively well.

This success fosters admiration, which is always nice to have, and emulation, which is always dangerous to have. Vietnam has begun to open its economy and is attempting to enter the WTO. India in the last fifteen years has finally turned away from its failed socialistic economic experiments and found the better friend of the poor is capitalism. And Japan has long moved many of its factories to Southeast Asia, to countries such as Malaysia and Thailand that have similar economic characteristics as China.

None of these countries would have been competitors for China's manufacturers twenty years ago, but they are now. And I don't think this is fully appreciated by many within China. The sun is setting on the "easy" part of China's modernization.

... Investments will not necessarily flee China and move to other countries: the world's economic pie is not static and not a zero-sum game. However, future investments will be made across a greater number of countries, China will cease to suck up so many foreign dollars, and the greater competition offered by other countries will cut into the margins that allow China to use its profits to solve its other pressing problems, whether they be an inadequate transporation infrastructure, agrarian reform, continued expansion of educational opportunities, or many others.
What does this say about the importance of China in the world economy? China will be increasingly important, but perhaps not as important as The Economist recently suggested ($subscription required).

I strongly recommend Ben Muse's blog. I visit it on a regular basis and always find items of interest.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Radio Economics Podcast Interview with
Kevin Brancato

Kevin Brancato, founder and co-blogger at Always Low Prices, is a very prolific blogger; he is also a major blogger and founder of the Truck and Barter blog. One wonders how he has time to blog as much as he does, raise a family, and hold down a full-time job. James Reese's podcast interview with him was just posted at Radio Economics.

How Long Before Galloway and Livingstone Are Charged with Treason?

From the NYPost (registration required):

Islamic militants who have voiced support for the bloody July 7 terror bombings in London could face charges of treason, the Attorney General's Office said Sunday.
Why just Islamic militants? What about some of the politicians?

The Hubbert Peak, Oil Prices, and Speculation

Over the past weekend, MA and I had several e-mail exchanges about Twilight in the Desert, about which I wrote this brief item yesterday. He pointed out some similarities between Simmons' views and those of M. King Hubbert, who used mathematical models to predict that for a specific oil field, oil production peaks and then drops off suddenly. From Wikipedia:

The Hubbert peak theory, also known as peak oil, is an influential theory concerning the long-term rate of conventional oil (and other fossil fuel) extraction and depletion. It predicts that future world oil production will reach a peak and then rapidly decline. The actual peak year will only be known after it has passed. Based on available production data, proponents have predicted the peak year to be 1989, 1995, 1995-2000, or, according to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, 2007 for oil and somewhat later for natural gas. This may lead to major economic consequences for the world since modern civilization is dependent on cheap and abundant fossil fuels, especially for transportation, food production, chemical industrial processes, water treatment, home heating and power generation. The Hubbert peak theory is named for geophysicist M. King Hubbert, who correctly predicted the peak of U.S. oil production fifteen years in advance. While controversial, the theory increasingly influences policy makers within government and the oil industry. The current debate is rarely about whether there will be a peak, but rather when it will occur and the severity of the post-peak effects. Even the most generous mainstream reports estimate petroleum reserves lasting no more than 100 years.
My reaction: Show me some economics. Show me the effects of expectations on prices.

First, it is incorrect to generalize what might be a geological condition in one field to the world economy. As (or if ) world oil becomes more scarce, prices will rise and extraction rates will decline. Also, higher prices induce more exploration. As Phil Miller says, "We will never run out of oil."

Second, suppose Hubbert is correct. Sort of. Then speculators ought to be driving up the price of oil now by slowing the extraction rate, if not in Saudi Arabia then elsewhere. And keep in mind that even thought the U.S. imports only a small percentage of its oil from Saudi Arabia, if their oil stopped flowing into the world market, that would have a big impact on the world markets.

There was a very informative discussion of these topics by Hamilton and Kaufman recently here. Hamilton points out that the December 2011 future price of oil isn't much different from the current spot price. Apparently, speculators disagree with those who are predicting doom and gloom. If you really think the Hubbert peak is drawing nigh, this is a good time to buy lots of long-term oil futures.

Where is Julian Simon when we need him?

Czech - Slovakia:
A Lesson for Canada?

From Celestial Junk:

The Czech republic, perhaps better than any ex-soviet block nation, has entered the free world at a sprint. Instead of collapsing into civil war, or being overrun by mafia type gangs, the Czechs finessed their way into the developed world. Using a pragmatism that Canadians could learn from, one of the first acts of the Czech democratic government was to release its grumbling and nationalistic province, Slovakia.

The strategy was simple: When the Slovaks brought forward a list of autonomy demands, with the threat of separation attached, the Czechs simply let the Slovaks go. A shocked and bewildered Slovakia, got handed its head on a plate; independence. Perhaps there’s a lesson here for Canadians in their dealings with Quebec.

For more on the Czech success story, see the whole item.
[Update: Note that the Slovakian economy has been doing well lately. See this piece by Brian Ferguson.]
I doubt that splitting Canada, a country that has existed for over a century, would be as easy as splitting Czechoslovakia was in its nascent state. Bob Young, a poli-sci colleague at UWO, has long argued that we have no idea how costly separation will be.

[Thanks to Gods of the Copybook for the pointer]

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Is Wal-Mart Becoming More Fashion Conscious?

According to a recent article in the Washington Post [registration required], Wal-Mart wants to upgrade its fashion image, especially in its clothing lines, but through-out its stores.

Wal-Mart's shoppers ... consistently seek clothing and home decor outside the chain -- namely at J.C. Penney, Kohl's and Target (in that order, studies show). One hundred million consumers shop at Wal-Mart every week, but only 34 percent buy apparel there, according to a study by STS Market Research.

... For decades, the retailer has relied on its suppliers to tell the chain what's fashionable. The problem was that the company had no way of knowing if the vendors were wrong. "A lot of suppliers got used to selling us large quantities of last year's look," said Watts, the vice president of product development.
It is odd that Wal-Mart would trust its suppliers on style but negotiate hard on price. Why don't they just ask their suppliers what a good price would be, and take their word for that, too? That they don't suggests there is something missing from the article.

The implication of this practice is that both Wal-Mart and its suppliers have been playing a non-repeated game in which Wal-Mart negotiates very low prices but also gets dumped on with older styles. This game might work so long as both players expect not to deal with each other again in the future. But playing the game repeatedly with different players has affected Wal-Mart's strategies.

Given this change in goals for Wal-Mart [the desire for more up-to-date fashions], if the suppliers want contracts with Wal-Mart in the future, they cannot just dump unfashionable merchandise with Wal-Mart for low prices when Wal-Mart takes their word for what is in style.

If Wal-Mart wants more up-to-date styles, it has two options. One is to develop longer-term working relationships (aka repeated-play games) with its suppliers . The other is to monitor fashions more closely itself; setting up a fashion centre on Fifth Avenue in New York City indicates that Wal-Mart has chosen the second of the two options.

From the Elite Eleven to The Dirty Dozen

First the Elite Eleven, and now on a list of 12 must-read blogs at Gods of the Copybook:

The Eclectic Econoclast - An economics blog run by a professor of economics. At Western no less. If you're an economics addict - someone who tries to explain everything with reference to economics - then this is a must on your daily tour of the blogsphere.

Twilight in the Desert

JJ recommends that we listen to an interview with Matthew Simmons by clicking here. Simmons is the author of Twilight in the Desert.

Sparked by personal observations of Saudi oil wells-which led him to suspect that some Saudi fields were in decline-energy industry insider Matt Simmons has created a compelling case that Saudi Arabia's production will soon reach an apex, after which the world will be confronted with an immense and potentially catastrophic oil shortage. Written in a clear and engaging style, Twilight in the Desert provides an in-depth look at the world oil market and the mismanagement of Saudi oil resources.

... Mr. Simmons asserts that sudden and sharp oil production declines could happen at any time. Twilight in the Desert shows that even under the most optimistic scenario, Saudi Arabia may be able to maintain current rates of production for several years, but will not be able to increase production enough to meet the expected increase in global demand. Eventually, the reckoning day will come, and the world economy will be confronted with a major shock that will stunt economic growth, increase inflation, and further destabilize the Middle East.
It looks as if Simmons thinks the efficient markets hypothesis and the Coase Theorem are inapplicable in this instance. If property rights are well-defined, and if transaction costs are low, then (if Simmons' technical assessment is correct) speculators should be buying up access to the Saudi oil reserves and holding them off the market.

Even if doing so is difficult or impossibly costly in Saudi Arabia, if Simmons is correct, speculators should be buying up oil reserves and holding them off the market until later, when the Saudis are no longer able to pump as much oil. Perhaps that is one of the reasons oil prices are rising. Or perhaps not everyone agrees with Simmons.

Mismanagement of assets could also prompt a hostile takeover, in every sense of the word. If Simmons if correct, the Saudi royal family will find it increasingly difficult to buy off the resistance, and we could see some intense world turmoil. Another reason for speculators to buy up oil futures.

New Uses for Podcasting: iGod

With the phenomenal success of iPod and other MP3 players, in conjunction with downloadable music, innovators are finding other uses for iPods, too. Podcasting, or posting actual programmes to the internet for people to download to their MP3 players has been around for a few years. The use of podcasting seems to be the digital equivalent to "time-shifting" which many of us did for awhile with our VCRs 20 years ago: download a programme and listen to it at your own convenience instead of when it is being broadcast.

One of the latest uses of podcasting in the blogosphere has been James Reese's Radio Economics, which I mentioned in several previous postings.

And now there is GodCasting [thanks to MA for the pointer]:

While most people use their fashionable portable music players to download their favourite pop tunes from the internet, many are adding a spiritual element to their playlists.

The Rev Leonard Payne, the vicar of a remote parish in Suffolk, has been overwhelmed by the response after he posted some of his homilies on the Apple iTunes store last month.

"We were stunned. Within a short period of time, over 2,400 people had downloaded one of the sermons," he said yesterday.

"The volume was so great we had to change servers and in the last five days of July, over 230 copies of our talks have been delivered, an incredible reaction to the work of a small rural congregation."
I am sure I will eventually give in to this new-wave medium. But not soon. My major objections to podcasting are three-fold:
  1. I don't own a personal MP3 player (other than my PC). That could easily be remedied, of course; I can buy one. I have a friend who says he'll never buy another CD because he likes his 60gig iPod so much. But that brings up the next problem.
  2. I like classical music, and the downloadable selections don't seem to be all that plentiful (not that I have searched very hard). And downloading all my CDs to an iPod just doesn't seem worth the time. Also, I usually don't like to mess around choosing specific music. I just like to listen to Otto's Baroque or Mostly Classical via WinAmp and be done with it. In the car, I just listen to the radio. It's all much easier than selecting an album. I guess with an iPod, at least, I could put it on "random" or "shuffle" and get the same effect.
  3. I would rather read interviews or speeches than listen to them. Reading is much quicker, and it is easier to quit mid-sentence and return when I'm ready. Jim Reese says he listens to podcasts while running or working out. I can see that might be a possibility.

As I said, I will likely get a personal MP3 player at some point, but probably not until my next long trip.

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