Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Demand Limited Economics

I stumbled on a fascinating blog Jacobite (A Jacobite was someone who wanted to restore the House of Stuart in England, very obscure Games of Thronsy stuff.  Don't confuse with Jacobin, the raving mad Rein of Terror crowd coming back into vogue on the Left today).

This article folds into my post below about the debt-fueled consumer society.
What has changed in recent decades is that the mobility and automation of productive processes, combined with a glut of the supply of financial capital, results in a macroeconomic production function that is demand-constrained rather than supply constrained.
I have walked through empty malls with miles and miles of goods stacked to the ceiling, and no one around to buy.  We have global over capacity, and for the economy to run (or at least not break down) governments have to get more people to soak up this excess capacity.  So we have these perverse effects:
  • The need for mass immigration, to create more consumers to buy crap
  • The push for broken households, who spend more and save less 
  • The push for more welfare and income distribution programs to create more buying
  • The push for ever increasing amounts of consumer debt
  • The push for ever more student loans
  • The push for people to buy houses who shouldn't (yes, it's happening again)
  • Ever increasing levels of government debt and monetary devaluation
The global economy is in a giant debt trap.  If consumers stopped buying the whole house of cards would come down. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Let's Ban Gas Leaf Blowers

One of the fun side effects of tinnitus for a large portion of suffers is hyperacusis, which is increased sensitivity to sound.  It's not bad enough that there is constant ringing or whooshing in the ear, what sounds you do hear seem louder than they are and can actually be physically painful.

And one of the most annoying, painful sounds is gas leaf blowers.  There are no house walls or windows thick enough that can block the sound.  I am a climate skeptic, but like most who push it, I am willing to sign on in order to push an agenda (and ignore it for stuff that I like to do).

According to the State of California, gas powered leaf blowers and hedgers will pass cars to become the number one polluter in 2020.  Politicians rail on everything from cars to planes to cut down pollution, but for some reason no one ever talks about leaf blowers and other 2-stroke gardening tools (which mix oil with gas for fuel), all of which have quieter electric counter-parts. 

If we are in a 12 year crisis, as claimed by many, how come nothing is being done with these devices that generate not only the most pollution, but unwanted noise?  How come politicians are pushing regulations for more electric cars but not more electric gardening tools, which would provide more bang for the regulatory buck?

Several California cities have banned gas leaf blowers, and I hope the trend picks up, but it is infuriating to hear "green, green, green" but no one has suggested this very simple, big solution. Instead you have the idiot Deblaseo talking about banning skyscrapers or the FAA "NextGen" rules creating noise nightmares in order to save a few pennies of jetfuel per flight.

It goes to show that "climate change" is BS.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Americans Don't Have Savings by Choice

These stories come out every few months: Almost 40% of Americans Would Struggle to Cover a $400 Emergency

What Americans don't have to struggle to pay for: big screen TVs, ipads, expensive tennis shoes, Starbucks, streaming TV services, cellphone service, legalized marijuana, and everything else in this mass consumer society.

No one is saying "Hey, we should cut off our cable and Netflix, which cost $100 a month, and check out free library books for the next four months so we can save $400 for an emergency".

Few people live below their means, or are willing to sacrifice to do so.  Mass debt shoveled at everyone means relatively poor families max out the cards for that Disney vacation.  Gratification now, and worry about paying later.

The lack of savings is just a reflection of debt-fueled mass consumption encouraged not only by corporations, but by the government.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Goodby Rice University

My kid who has straight As, a 1530 SAT, speaks two languages fluently, played sports, and did summer internships in Japan and Ukraine was rejected from my alma mater Rice University.  Worse than that, it was also my mother’s alma mater.  My mother was one of only 100 women at the whole university when she attended in the late 1950s, and was the first in her family ever to attend college. She was a major reason I attended Rice for both a bachelors and an MBA, and this rejection was a spit in both of our faces.  It shows the admissions office is divorced from Rice’s own history and driving their own agenda.

This along with the college bribery scandal shows college admissions is irreparably broken.  Kids who shouldn’t get in are admitted.  Kids who should be admitted are not, in this case probably due to an anti-legacy effort or because my daughter is not “diverse” enough.  I have no doubt at all she would have been accepted if the ethnicity box were checked differently. She is an honor student, and I was not some alum hoping for “legacy” to dump my C-student on my alma mater.

Over the years I have gotten fellow alumni jobs.  Not job leads, but jobs.  Students often reached out to me over LinkedIn for internship leads since I am one of very few alumni working in Silicon Valley.  In the early 2000s I did a marketing project for a group of professors who were trying to spin out a technology.  A few years earlier I had connected my father’s company to hire a professor for a consulting project.  

Despite over 50 years of family connection and my staying involved, Rice decided to cut ties with me while at the same time letting in dozens of foreign students with no ties at all, and who will all drop all ties once they return home

Rice has a frightenly small number of alumni – they graduate in ten years what or Texas A&M or UCLA does in two years – and should be nurturing their network, not alienating it. But like the foreign students I will now be cutting all ties with Rice.  No job leads.  No internship leads.  Applications listing Rice go to the bottom of the pile.  Students can’t find me on LinkedIn since Rice is deleted from my profile. My own networking efforts will not be hindered since there are so few Rice alumni in my field.  I was a pathfinder. 

And after all, why would I help a university that wouldn’t accept me as a student if I were applying today?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mobile Phones Adding to Tinnitus?

Maybe not from talking, but from music and headphones.  This problem is only going to get worse as kids spend more time in earphones without any sort of training or awareness of what high decibel music can do to ears over time.

Mobile phones are damaging hearing as number of teenagers with tinnitus reaches ‘alarming levels’

Scientists at McMaster University, Ontario, tested 170 students’ hearing and found over a quarter are already experiencing chronic, persistent tinnitus.

This increase is due to ‘risky listening habits’ like listening to loud music at parties, in clubs and on personal listening devices like phones – which almost all of the students engaged in, according to the researchers.

“It’s a growing problem and I think it’s going to get worse,” said Dr Larry Roberts of McMaster’s Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, author of the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“My personal view is that there is a major public health challenge coming down the road in terms of difficulties with hearing.”28 per cent of the study participants had already developed persistent tinnitus.The tests found those experiencing tinnitus were more likely to have a significantly reduced tolerance for loud noise.

This is considered a sign of hidden permanent damage to the nerves used in processing sound, which can lead to serious hearing impairment later in life.

Friday, March 31, 2017

More Hearing Loss, Tinnitus in Coming Generations

This article has a lot of stats, but not a lot about prevention about the upcoming  demographic increase in hearing loss (emphasis mine)

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore predict that 44 million — or 15 percent of U.S. adults — will have some hearing loss by 2020. That will increase to 23 percent of all adults 20 and older by 2060....The rise in Americans with hearing loss will be especially pronounced among the 70 and older set. In 2020, 55 percent of all adults with hearing loss will be 70 or older. In 2060 — 67 percent.
Like eyesight, there is age-related hearing loss for which there is not a lot someone can do.  What people can do is for people to take common sense approaches to protecting their ears.  I see all sorts of activities every day which can lead to hearing loss (plus tinnitus) in later years:
  • Extremely loud music in the car - If I can hear your music through both your closed window and mine, you are putting too much pressure on your ears.  This goes double with loud concerts.  Go to Tinnitus Talk and just a brief browsing of people show dozens of young people who got permanent tinnitus or hearing problems after being at a loud concert.
  • Extremely loud musing with headphones - This more than anything is why there will be an upward trend in hearing problems for the next few decades.  Smartphons, ipods, tablets and the like have people with earphones in for days at a time.  I have sit next to people on airplanes where I can hear their music quite clearly - even though I have my own earphones on.  The key is to keep it at a reasonable level.
  • No use of ear protection around heavy equipment (including chain saws, lawn mowers, etc).  I am seeing better use by professional lawn crews (but not always).
  • No use of ear protection when hunting or shooting with friends.  Gun ranges require ear protection, but people on their often skip this.  Several people in Tinnitus Talk have "T" because they did not take gun safety (which includes ear protection) seriously.  Also, if you having a hunting dog, get him protection as well - they sell ear protection specifically for gun dogs.
  • Skipping the Dentist (who can often see signs of bruxism) - This is the one that got me.  The dentist noted I had early signs of bruxism, but then I didn't go back for two years.  If had gone back and she had noticed increased signs, she might have gotten me into a biteplate before my TMJ got further deteriorated.
I now carry earplugs with me for things like sporting events and surprise situations that I might find myself in, like being near heavy equipment.  Much hearing loss (and the tinnitus that comes with a lot of it) is preventable with some pretty easy precautions. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Yoga and TMJ Tinnitus

I have covered before my now eight-month ordeal with tinnitus, caused by TMJ disorder.  It has been a slow recovery, and it could be one without an end since there is no guarantee that my "T" will ever get to zero.
However, I have gone from a 7/10 to a steady 2/10, and now with increasing incidences of 1/10.  And at a 1, the ringing is well below ambient noise level in a restaurant or bar.  I don't hear it at all in those situations.
Like most recoveries the improvement has been asymptotic.  I was stuck at a steady "2" it seems for months, but I finally started hearing more days of "1" after I started yoga.  It could be a coincidence, but I think there is something to it since TMJ disorder is related to tendons, joints and musculature.  It makes sense that stretching and strengthening would have some benefits.
The pose that I think helps the most: Standing Separate Leg, Head to Knee Pose (they have an Indian name for it that sounds like all of them: blablabla-strassena).  Having to twist my forehead to touch my knee seems to do all sorts of stuff in my ear area (and my knee is way bent unlike the model in the link).  Maybe it increases blood flow, maybe it is stretching the tendon, but something definitely happens in my TMJ area with that pose.
Here is a summary of my T improvement curve and the tools I have used.  The question is will I ever get to a 0?



Monday, March 13, 2017

The Restaurant Experience is Declining in California

But my guess is that California restaurant revenues are up due to inflation and steady traffic at very high-end restaurants that serve the upper-crust in LA and SF.  But I think the mid and low-end of the spectrum is flat to down as this segment massively makes cuts to offset increases in wages. 
I have watched over the past two years as an ever increasing number of restaurants become  "countertop ordering" where customers order at the register.  You then get a number and someone brings you your food, or even worse, they call your name and you have to make your way up and fetch the food yourself.  This is fine for a pizza joint or fast food, but the problem is that this is happening everywhere at places that are supposed to be family or casual dining.  At a mall close to my house there are over a dozen places to eat, but only one has wait-staff.
Outside of pizza or lunch I simply refuse to eat at a place like that.  There are a couple of mom and pops that I frequent that have wait-staff, but they are not exactly cheap to eat at any more. 
I think counter-top dining and $8 beers seem to be the future of most California dining.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Long-Term Layoff

M&A layoffs by acquiring companies come in two main flavors: immediate layoffs after the acquisition is closed, and long-range layoffs once the knowledge of the acquiree has been assimilated into the acquirer. 
I have been on the acquisition side a couple of times, and few people know how medieval it can get during initial cuts.  Managers go through lists of names and simply check off boxes on who will be eliminated.  They are just names and checks, but the result is a few hours later that person is gone.  It would make Stalin proud.  And few people have any clue how simple statements can get them doomed. For example, one engineer at an acquiree company mentioned in passing that he might want to go into marketing one day.  That simple comment got him the axe when the culling came.  The company was acquired for their engineers, and anyone who didn't want to stay an engineer wasn't wanted.
I am now on the receiving end of an acquisition, but it was a "friendly" buyout and there were no immediate cuts after SuperGiantCo bought the little start-up.  But this is covering up the long-range plan to assimilate the smaller acquisition into the collective whole of SuperGiantCo. 
The main way they are doing this is by "boiling the frog slowly" on engineers and "salami slicing" the management.  By the former, they create ways of "knowledge sharing" between acquiree engineers and SuperGiantCo engineers that are really "knowledge transfer" from the former to the latter.  But this is done a little at a time, in a very natural, friendly way through exchange programs, meetings, joint projects and the like.  What the acquiree engineers don't realize is that they are slowly transferring their brain to SuperGiantCo engineers, and in 2-3 years they will not be needed.  They are basically training others to do their job, but in a way that seems benign.  Already SuperGiantCo has "shadow design centers" doing the exact same thing as the acquiree company used to do.  Once those shadow design centers are up the learning curve, my engineers will become redundant and ready for the chopping block.
On the management side (my side) they are doing "salami slicing".  Instead of removing responsibility of the old managers all at once, they do it one small piece at a time.  No single piece means much, and in fact the offload sometimes might be welcome, but after a while you realize that your whole job has been sliced away piece by piece and given to various managers at SuperGiantCo.  This is also about a two year process.
At the end SuperGiantCo won't need either the engineers or managers from the acquiree company.   At that time they will either let us go, or for a few lucky ones might be Borg enough to land a position in the parent company.