Thursday, February 28, 2008

not nearly over

if you think that the housing price problems in the US are approaching their bottom, it may be worthwhile to keep the following in mind:

despite a drastically reduced Fed Reserve Rate over the last month, the 30 year fixed mortgage rate has actually gone up. because of this, house affordability is actually falling faster than house prices in most markets. with speculative fever strongly dampened, house prices will be guided by what is sustainably affordable to the market, rather than what some idiot can cover the teaser payment on.

new appraisal rules are being considered that will reduce a lender's ability to fudge the numbers to make things work. essentially, a loan can only be given for some percentage of the value of a house. the value of the house is determined by an appraiser. in the recent past, appraisers have become less and less independent because of immoral (and illegal) business practices on the part of lenders and brokers. the discussion today is that the appraisers will be made to be actually independent. so, house valuations will be guided by reality rather than being decided by a lender and rubber stamped by an appraiser who will get fired if they don't match the target appraisal.

on the other hand, the Fed Reserve Bank seems to be set on the idea of continued rate cuts, which effectively devalue the USD. having a long term loan that you get to pay back with an increasingly worthless currency isn't such a bad thing. and mortgage rates may get much higher before they get lower. so, prices will almost certainly be lower in a few years, but affordability may be lower as well.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

a small bit of crow pie re: public smoking

In my widely debated post on the 100% cigarette-banning actions of nanny states around the world and how Israel's 95% solution makes more sense to me, I made a lot of interesting points and drew attention to an innovative and perhaps more sensible approach to a worldwide problem.

I also somewhat minimized the health impacts of smoking and the cessation of smoking in all public places. As it turns out, the number of patients being admitted for myocardial infarction in France has fallen by 15% in just over 1 year since the 100% ban was enacted. While the source of the data is one of the proponents of the legislation and has every reason to massage data to support their own opinions, it is probably best to accept it at face value, since similar data has been collected elsewhere.

The weird thing is how the 15% reduction happened. According to the article, the number of smokers in France hasn't changed. I would guess that the number of cigarettes smoked probably has fallen. But my impression is that it takes a lifetime of smoking to cause something like myocardial infarction, so how could you have a meaningful drop in cases after just one year. Did they, in fact just remove the final trigger for some set of people?

In any case, I still think that a collection of consenting adults should be able to gather in at least a few public places around a city and smoke, so long as every reasonable effort is made to eliminate their impact on everyone else.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

the next bubble and why it has nothing to do with China

Harpers magazine agrees with me that the next bubble will be alternative energy at the end of a longish article about how the US is so screwed up that we can only grow through bubbles.

It won't be the same sort of bubble as housing or the internets, though. It will actually create real value to society for several years before hyperinflating itself into shameful oblivion. Considering how big, slow, and heavily regulated the energy industry is, it seems possible we may only see the growth part of the coming energy bubble, without the nasty crash.

Another, unrelated article, suggests that GE is an excellent stock to own if you expect the US (or anywhere else, really) to have a nuclear or renewable energy future, which, of course, seems nearly inevitable today.

Also, two separate articles recently suggested that China may be approaching the end of their meteoric economic growth for inevitable demographic reasons and various other factors.

another good reason to become a power systems engineer

there simply aren't enough engineers in this country. over the last three decades the number of engineers graduating has decreased by 3%, while the number of people graduating with a degree in anything has increased by 50%.

the situation in the power systems field is more problematic because we have demographic issues. every utility that i know of has a pretty old workforce and a frequent gripe at the symposium i just went to is that as people retire, the utilities discover that they forgot to train someone to replace them. couple this with the fact that we are approach the scary end of the bathtub curve on a lot of our equipment and you've got a perfect storm situation.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

wind power mandates, PHEVs, and smart grid synergies

The problems created by large amounts wind power can be solved through the control of Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) by way of Smart Grid Technology.

I'll get to what that means in a minute. First, though, lets cover who should care: if you do think CO2 is a problem and don't think biofuels are a silver bullet, or if you are an Electric Power Systems Engineer in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) of the US, you should care. I've tried to write this in a way that is understandable to anyone patient or bored enough to read it, without sacrificing too much detail or precision.

The basic idea is simple: adding large amounts of wind power to an electric grid also adds lots of problems, adding large numbers of intelligently controlled PHEVs to the same electric grid may help solve these problems.

The electric grid is the biggest, most powerful machine in the world. It moves very slowly. Before wind was introduced as a big player, it also moved very predictably. People consume more power during certain times of the day, so the system is set up to generate more power during those times of the day. A very precise equilibrium between production and consumption is always maintained. Any deviation from this equilibrium causes big problems. Up until today, the system can only control the production of power to maintain this equilibrium. It has no say whatsoever on how much power is consumed, by whom, or when so long as you pay your bill.

In the PNW, most of our power comes from large scale hydroelectric dams mostly built during the first half of the century. As it happens, the electric consumption in the PNW hasn't changed significantly in decades because we embrace conservation, so we have plenty of power to go around at some of the lowest rates in the world ($.02/kWh in some counties). We have no need whatsoever for additional production capacity. We do, however, have a new "Energy Independence Act" (independent from what, I have no idea, since virtually none of our electric energy is imported) I-937 that requires us to produce lots of power from wind. 15% of the energy delivered to customers will have to come from wind sources by 2020. I, along with the rest of the power industry in the state, think this is ridiculous but I won't be distracted from my theme. Instead, I'll pretend that it is a good idea and just try to figure out how to make it work.

The problem with wind power is that it depends on the wind blowing. Wind is difficult to forecast and changes rapidly. A given wind plant might go from 0% output to 100% back to 0% in the course of an hour. This is problematic for the system because it forces the other power sources to constantly adjust their power output so that the precise equilibrium between production and consumption can be maintained. This constant adjustment is expensive and requires that other power sources be run outside of their most economical range. In the PNW, running a plant outside of its most economical range often means spilling water over the top of a dam instead of running it through turbines to produce power, which is effectively the same thing as throwing energy away. Today, in the PNW, this cost is just starting to be imposed on the wind plants. Even though only 3% of the region's power comes from wind today, the problems caused by wind plants will increase the cost of wind power by 10% (about $23 million this year). By the time wind power represents 15% of the power consumed, this cost will probably have risen significantly, both in absolute and relative terms. The first part of the question, then, is how to minimize this cost.

The second part of the question is what to do with all of this new power that we don't need.

Conceptually, at least, the answer is simple: we increase the amount of energy consumed and stored. The best way to do this is with Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). PHEVs are vehicles that run partially on electric energy stored on board that has been taken from the electric power system and partially on another source, usually a small internal combustion engine. The Chevy Volt is one example where all of the power to the wheels comes from the electric motor and the internal combustion engine is used only to charge the batteries. A Toyota Prius that has been modified so that it can recharge it's batteries from the electric grid would be an example where the power to the wheels comes from both the internal combustion engine and the electric motor. (I have strong opinions about both of these cars and how wrong they are, but I won't go into them right now.) The good part about PHEVs is that they can significantly reduce our fossil fuel consumption and CO2 output in the PNW. The really good part about them is that they would represent a huge new demand for this excess electric power that the wind energy mandate will force us to produce. The best part about them, though, is that they have the capacity to reduce the cost of integrating wind energy into our system by reducing the need to run our hydro dams outside of their most economical range. But these latter large benefits can only be captured by proceeding intelligently and with an understanding of the total power system. If we start using a large number of PHEVs without considering how they will impact the system, we will almost certainly make the cost of integrating new wind energy higher instead of lower.

Which brings us to the smart grid system. The idea behind the smart grid is that some consumers of power would be willing to make small modifications to the way they consume power if it benefited the environment, reduced their cost, and had minimal impact on their lifestyle. The mechanism for achieving this is a tool that looks at the market price of electricity and decides whether or not to consume power in a specific way at that moment. For example, you get home, park your PHEV and plug it in. You don't care when it recharges, as long as it is done before tomorrow morning, so you tell it to charge in the most economical mode. It looks at the current price of electricity and the expected overnight price and decides to run later and it saves you a little bit of money. If the price unexpectedly goes up while it is charging, it stops charging until the price comes back down again. If the price goes even higher, it may decide to sell some power back to the supplier. If you want to recharge now, you switch it out of the economy mode and it recharges right now. But you don't have to think about it. You just plug it in and set it in either the economy or the performance mode. The beauty of this mechanism is that it not only saves the consumer money, but it also provides a way for the power supplier to influence how much power is consumed and when by setting the price.

If it is the middle of a windy night in the spring in the PNW where all of the dams and all of the wind turbines are providing full power, the electricity to charge your PHEV might be nearly free. If it is a cold snap in the early winter, the dams are struggling to meet load and the wind turbines aren't running at all, electricity might be expensive enough that your charger decides you would be better off using the internal combustion engine to charge the batteries to power your commute. More importantly, there would often be borderline cases where the wind power increases and then decreases again repeatedly through the night. As the wind power increases, the market price for electricity would fall and your charger would turn on. As the wind power decreases, the price would rise again and your charger might stop charging your batteries.

Through this mechanism, you would get the most economical charge for your batteries and the power system would get the most economical way of maintaining the equilibrium between the power produced and consumed, thus reducing the integration cost of wind power, allowing a larger percentage of our energy consumption to be served by wind power.

There are a good number of details to be worked out (the PHEVs, the smart grid charger, and the market used by the smart grid charger are all still mostly theoretical, for example. and all have significant social, political, and bureaucratic barriers to overcome. I don't think there are significant technical barriers, but I am a bit of an optimist when it comes to technology), but I think that the potential benefits are so important that working them out is a high priority.

That is my excessively long, but hopefully understandable understanding of the subject. I hope somebody finds it interesting. Otherwise, I've just wasted the better part of a beautiful Saturday morning.

Friday, February 22, 2008

good stuff coming soon

i've got a pretty big post i'm thinking about. it may turn into two or three. i hope to have the chance to write it up this evening. it has been a couple of busy days

so, this is a teaser:

demographics are a pain. 1/3 of Japan's population will be retired in the near future.

Darpa still rocks.

all we need is energy. seriously, i'm pretty convinced that the only technical issue we face today is energy. there are plenty of huge social, political, and moral issues, but energy is the only technical issue that we really need to worry about. that, and maybe the next generation of environmental engineering.

reactivating the immune systems of people with HIV.
which brings us back to demographics and how much of a pain they are. or will be.

anyway, i think i'll have fun writing it. hopefully tonight. at the moment, i have to head off to an energy symposium at my alma mater.

Friday, February 15, 2008

adblock plus

a recent announcement that google is getting into the video banner ad industry has reminded me that i really hate ads.

i understand that ads may be important to somebody and could theoretically benefit society in some way, but it seems to me they are a greater source of evil than good. at the very least, they are a huge source of distraction and annoyance for me. this is why i don't watch tv in the US (other countries only break for ads once or twice every 30 minutes, if you can imagine). it is also why i use mozilla with adblock plus installed. it blocks about 90% of ads.

unfortunately, as i understand it mozilla is funded by google and google only makes money by selling ads (seriously, they are a huge rich company that does all of this cool stuff that i love and stands for the free internet and seems so cool, but their only income is from their banner ads), so it is only a matter of time before adblock gets disappeared or subverted.

in the meantime, try it out. i think you'll find the internets far more enjoyable when experienced ad-free. it just looks so much neater and cleaner and stylistically consistent.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

nanosolar, again

i know i've posted about nanosolar before and, no, they haven't released any news recently, but they are just too cool for school. let the effusing begin:

they intend to make the world's cheapest and best solar panels. thin film printed on an aluminum foil substrate using printing press technology. and they are in it to win it, not just to make an IPO and run off with the cash, the way some other new solar panel manufacturers appear to be playing the game.

they don't even intend to offer stock. they have a few big investors and they don't want any more. they intend to use their profits to increase their manufacturing capacity, so they don't need to raise any more funds.

i don't much like solar power in general and i don't expect to see a huge market for it in the long run (i understand that there is a good chance that i'm wrong about this, but i figure that the most efficient commercial solar panels convert something like 15% of incident light energy into electricity. meanwhile, the average green leafy plant converts about 30% into stored energy. so, if i had to recover as much energy as possible from a given acre, it seems there are a lot of situations that would already favor the plants. and the bioengineering field is only in the very earliest stages of development. so, long term, i think solar panels may not be terribly interesting for energy purposes. also, i don't really like the sun, so i have a personal bias against the tech.).

that being said, nanosolar is building panels today and they are going to eat every other solar panel manufacturer's lunch. i'm looking at you: first solar. you've got a year or two left before nanosolar has a big enough manufacturing base to displace all of your sales.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

33% discount on bottled water (sort of)

according to one suburban myth, Europeans used to drink wine and beer instead of water because the water was too dangerous. i'm sure a link exists, but i don't feel like looking for it.

well, nowadays, the average American may have to switch to beer because their bottled water is too expensive:

"A Minyanville random survey of retail outlets found that the average retail price for 40 ounces of Dasani Purified Water is $3.10. However, the average retail price for a 40 ounce bottle of Colt 45 is $2.05, a savings of more than 33% over water. And that's despite a surge in beer prices thanks to a shortage of hops and malted barley."

so, if you see people carrying 40's to the gym, remember that they may just be smart shoppers, and not necessarily alcoholics.

considering that the beer brewing process starts with filtered water, buyers of bottled water are paying the bottler 50% more to not add anything to it.

does Dubai really make sense?

Dubai is turning itself into the world's largest resort town. a recent post on one of my favorite blogs reminded me of this. and i just can't understand it.

they'll have the world's tallest buildings, most man-made islands, largest theme park, biggest sports stadiums, largest indoor skiing area, busiest airport, and who know what other ridiculous things. so, is it like Disney World or Las Vegas (build it and they will come)?

i can't see that it is for some pretty good reasons:

1) it is in the UAE, a thoroughly Muslim country with a creepy name "United Arab Emirates". what are emirates and why should i trust them? it seems to me most people in the world with money to go to theme parks are at least a little bit wary of Muslim countries with creepy names and unknown politics.

2) they have no mickey mouse equivalent or sexy image. Disney uses cartoons to brainwash kids into nagging their parents into taking them to Disney World. Las Vegas has built an image of decadence and moral degradation over decades. will a Muslim nation be able to build a similar image on either count? will they want to?

3) so what is the theoretical attraction to Dubai? if my kids don't want to go there and middle-class people don't want to go there, what is left? are there really 200,000 rich people per day (the expected airport traffic) that want to fly across the world to stay in a ridiculously expensive hotel in a ridiculously hot desert?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

current best bio-fuel, a quick analysis

ZeaChem, a newish company here in the PNW is planning to produce ethanol from trees instead of corn. they currently own 35,000 acres of short rotation hybrid tree crop producing land and recently announced an agreement for how they will acquire additional production from another grower in the area.

aside from the inherent problems of ethanol (like difficult storage, delivery, and use), this seems worthwhile to talk about. i figure their process is producing ethanol because that is what the gov't will reward them to do. if we ever get smart and push butanol instead (a direct replacement for gasoline, with none of ethanol's storage, delivery, or use problems), i'm assuming that ZeaChem's process will be modified to produce butanol.

so, what they say is that:

"Other approaches have theoretical restrictions that limit ethanol production to 60-100 gallons per dry ton of biomass. The ZeaChem technology will produce fifty percent more ethanol per ton of feed than the current best-in-class technology."

so, let's be generous and say ZeaChem can produce 150 gallons ethanol/ton of dry biomass. we can even be excessively generous to the point of lying to ourselves a little bit and say that they could produce a gallon of butanol as a direct replacement for a gallon of ethanol. there is more energy in a gallon of ethanol, so this is almost certainly a false assumption, but let's pretend.

so, 1 ton of trees will give you 150 gallons of gas. they own 35,000 acres growing trees. the best hybrid poplar trees in the best soils will produce 10 tons of biomass per year. 35,000 acres x 10 tons/acre x 150 gallons/ton = about 50 million gallons of bio-fuel per year. the average american uses about 500 gallons/year. so, this process will support the driving habits of 3 Americans per acre of productive soil. given that we were a bit too generous in our assumptions and that there will be energy inputs into the system, i think scaling that back to 2 American drivers/acre should bring us pretty close to reality.

i'm impressed. assuming there are 200 million American drivers, that means we only need to use a land area of 100 million acres (an area the size of California) to provide a biological source for our current transportation consumption. this may not be so disruptive or impossible, actually. there are probably hybrid poplar trees that will happily grow on marginal soils that are currently unused or underused, so we may not have to displace food crops or native forest in order to provide a sustainable forest fuel crop.

Friday, February 8, 2008

were you aware? India real estate is carazy

maybe it is a faulty study, but according to one analyst, real estate in India is way more expensive than anywhere in the US, in terms of relative cost for all real estate and in terms of absolute cost for a lot of it.

how does this strike you:
"Condos in New Delhi, India: 2-bedroom, 1000 sq. ft. apartment for $200,000. [$200 per sq ft] (Source:

Condos in Chicago, USA: 2-bedroom, 1000 sq. ft. apartment for $400,000 [$400 per sq ft] (Source: Google Housing)

Now, remember that the median income in Chicago is 50 times more than that of New Delhi."


"Agricultural land in Faridabad, Haryana (adjacent to New Delhi much like New Jersey is to New York): $250,000 per acre (source:

Agricultural land in New Jersey: $12,000 per acre (source: USDA (pdf file), and for comparison its $6,000 per acre in California and $8,000 per acre in Florida)"

real estate in most of the US is overvalued right now by about 25% according to Merril Lynch, but lets pretend it isn't. let's lie to ourselves and pretend that current incomes justify current prices here. let's also pretend that RE across the world follows the same rules. that the median residence should cost about 3-5X median household incomes, the way that they do in the US today. in India today, the median residence costs ($200k from above divided by $2700 GDP/capita from the CIA factbook) 75X median household income.

for reference, if houses cost 75X GDP/capita in the US, the median house would cost $3.3 Million.

sure, India is a rapidly growing economy, but does anyone really believe that they'll move from $2,700/yr incomes to $27,000/yr incomes in the next decade or so? it'd take at least that to begin to justify current real estate prices there.

another interesting factoid from the linked article: New Jersey is more densely populated than India.

i'd be willing to guess that China is in a similar ridiculous real estate speculation situation.

i have no idea how this can possibly be true. if anyone has evidence that it isn't true, i would greatly appreciate seeing it. this worldwide asset speculation worries me.

Peace in the Middle East (final confirmation)

the PM of Palestine has said he doesn't see a Peace accord with Israel in 2008.

this should come as no surprise, considering that the PM of Palestine has no ability to establish peace within Palestine. the Gaza strip is still controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization that continues to shoot rockets into Israel on a daily basis.

don't get me wrong, the area isn't a flaming wreck. i'm sure life goes on as usual for most people, except that now Gaza is no longer getting electricity delivered to them by Israel. but, it is nowhere near a peace deal, no matter what any leader of the free world might say.

this is my second or third post since our president made a foolish claim about peace in Israel, so i think i'm done with the subject until another leader of the free world makes a silly claim that barely references reality.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ford Transit Connect

the Ford Transit Connect is coming to the states!

these things are ubiquitous in the rest of the motorized world, usually plastered with a company's logo and a layer of diesel exhaust condensate.

we won't get the diesel engine, though. or the manual transmission.

they'll mostly be bought as a smaller, more fuel efficient alternative to the Ford Econoline van for companies that make a lot of small deliveries in an urban setting. they carry up to five people or kind of a lot of stuff. a lot like the original scion xb, but far less cute, and a good bit more rugged.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

infrared plants, bio-crude

two more exciting developments in the race to secure an energy future:

the genome of an unusual bacteria that can capture near infrared light has been sequenced. the hope is that we'll eventually be able transfer this ability to other plants, increasing their ability to capture light by around 5%, allowing them to capture more CO2 and convert it to useful products.

a new process to convert waste biomass into bio-crude has been developed in Australia. the idea is that it is inefficient to transport large amounts of waste to central processing locations, so they take the process to the waste, convert it to an energy-dense and easily transported bio-crude, then transport that to the next processor, who could convert it to anything from plastic bottles to biodiesel. this isn't the first process along these lines, but the developers claim that it is the best.

Monday, February 4, 2008

EVs in Israel

Israel has announced that they intend to heavily subsidize electric vehicles (EVs) by reducing the taxes on them and installing a charging infrastructure.

I like EVs in general, but you have to wonder what Israel's intention is here. It is a grossly polluting country that has only recently stopped selling leaded gasoline and using the most basic of emissions control equipment on their refineries. There is a lot of low hanging fruit on their pollution control tree. So, why reach up to the highest branches of expensive solutions with minimal gains like this EV project?

And it is not as if they have the huge sources of cheap electricity that would make EVs a good economic decision or a way to reduce oil imports. Quite the opposite, in fact. They frequently have brownouts during the hotter parts of the summer because of insufficient electric generation. And 82% of the electricity they do produce uses oil as a fuel (yes, electric cars powered by electricity produced from oil are more efficient than diesel cars powered by oil, but not by much, especially if Israel has to build even more generation infrastructure to serve the load).

So, it clearly isn't really an effort to reduce pollution, reduce oil imports, or save money. So, why is Israel aggressively encouraging EVs?

I can only imagine it is a public relations effort. Israel does a lot of high-tech science and engineering. They intend to have an economy that is increasingly high-tech. Intel and Microsoft both have their biggest international R&D offices there. But Israel still has a public image dictated by their international and domestic relations with Arabs. So, maybe this EV effort is an attempt to draw positive attention to the country.

Today, being the world leader in electric vehicle infrastructure is pretty inexpensive and maybe the positive international attention created by it is worthwhile.

Friday, February 1, 2008

a silver lining?

if the more pessimistic/realistic economists are right about our financial institutions, the western world is in for a number of rocky years.

if the more pessimistic/realistic geologists are right about our oil supply, the industrialized world is in for a few tough decades.

so, what's the silver lining?

the renewable energy industry is poised to flourish. for the time being, this means wind power. and, depending on your definition of "renewable," nuclear power.

current solar technology is a farce at best, a politcal scandal at worst. same goes for tidal, wave, small-scale geothermal, high altitude wind, hybrid vehicles, and biofuels. some of them have interesting futures, but i have seen no good reason to pay any attention to them right now.

the conditions created by our financial system meltdown plus the belief that our oil production has peaked or will soon are excellent because of four factors:

1) low interest rates
2) low interest rates
3) low interest rates
4) politics

in a bit more detail:

1) low interest rates lead to a decrease in demand for USD, which leads to lower prices for USD, which means that each US dollar buys less than it used to. this causes the price of imported energy to rise, making energy from domestic sources more attractive

2) low interest rates make building wind and nuclear power facilities cheaper. as opposed to coal or natural gas plants, the vast majority of the cost of a wind or nuclear plant is up front. once the plant is built, the cost of fuel, operation, and maintenance is minimal. because of this, the lifetime cost of a wind or nuclear plant is strongly dependent on the interest rate

3) low interest rates cause people to expect inflation, so they look for ways to protect their wealth. traditionally, this meant buying gold (because it is the world's oldest currency). today, i think many people are buying oil futures instead of gold because they expect it to protect their wealth and also think that it may increase in value because of increasing demand from growing economies. this speculation accounts for around 30% of the price of oil today. Saudi Arabia sells oil for just over $60/barrel. by the time the markets are done with it, we end up paying over $90/barrel.

4) when the economy is bad, people generally want things to change. when it is an election year, this means whoever is presented by the other party will be elected. as it happens, the other party this year is the democrats. both democratic candidates have made strong statements about renewable energy mandates. Obama, the most likely democratic candidate (according to me) has said (according to cnn):

"Proposes reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 by using a market-based cap-and-trade system. Would invest $150 billion over 10 years in clean energy. Supports next generation biofuels. Proposes increasing fuel economy standards and would require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources by 2025. Would create a Global Energy Forum and re-engage with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change"

all of this renewable energy development will be great for people in the energy and construction fields and will go ahead no matter what. in addition to the plants themselves, the transmission of this energy will require huge investments in the country's electrical infrastructure.

for me, this equates to a silver lining. i'm an electrical engineer, though, so i'd naturally see things this way.

update: apparently, some talking heads have come to much the same conclusion as me. so, if you've got cash burning a hole in your pocket, infrastructure may be the next bubble. electrical infrastructure is a good bet. GE is a major player, but too diversified to make big gains. Clipper Wind Power is my favorite turbine manufacturer for boring technical reasons, has room a lot of room to grow, and is traded in the UK.

bionic ear, anyone?

new hearing replacement devices send signals directly to the brain.

the sound gets pretty distorted, but users apparently get used to it pretty quickly.

i'm kind of floundering for topics here. everyone is talking about the debt, recession, and credit problems now. 60 minutes even did a piece on it. they missed the wider impact, but i have only weakly supportable opinions on the wider impact.

peak oil and climate change are universally acknowledged.

i have opinions about who the next PUSA should be, but don't really want to talk about them.

the idea of peace in Israel anytime in the near future is so ridiculous that it doesn't even deserve to be mocked.

and there just isn't that much news in the areas of scientific development on a day to day basis.

so, this is me signing off until something new sparks my interest, i guess.