07 May 2021

I Forgot My Lithium Pill!

There have been a handful of missives in these endeavors over the last few years, going back to at least 2015, that ponder the use of battery electrics. So far, no one has created an element better at electrical energy density than lithium (creating such an element would make one rather rich), so that's what is used to make Tesla, et al batteries. Most of the metal is being mined outside the USofA, and for good reason: it is a filthy business, made manifest in today's NYT.

You would do well to read it up. It's, kind of, the repeat of my story from high school or junior high school. The teacher posed a question to the class: would increasing centrally electrified public transport, metros and trolley cars and the like, while decreasing personal autos reduce air pollution? This was long before the notion of climate change or global warming was a signficant part of public discourse. Humbly, I leaped into the breach and offered that it would depend on the efficiency and emissions of power plants vis-a-vis auto engines. I don't believe there was a strong answer to the question.

As the earlier missives in these endeavors have pointed out, all such comparisons can lead to intelligent decisions only if such comparisons calculate goods and bads on an end-to-end basis. Just because a Tesla emits no emissions while you drive doesn't mean that none were emitted from extraction of all the natural resources needed to make that Tesla as well as the processes undertaken to make that Tesla. The article spends a lot of ink delving into an answer to that question.

Balls To The Wall - part the first

Wow!! Just, Wow!! Years ago The Wife insisted we go to Bermuda, with what turned out to be the last of our money. Sailed from NYC on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship that was decades old, and was soon sold off to an even lower class English line. They cut it in half, added several tens of feet to the hull, and went merrily on their way.

I found out later that NCL, how it is commonly referred, is, within the industry, de-acronymed as No Class Line. So it comes as a great shock to read today that the CEO has taken a rational stand against Ronny VirusSeed©:
"At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and God forbid we can't operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from, and we can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida," CEO Frank Del Rio said during the company's quarterly earnings call.
Not the company I expected to do more than blather. It's not the voter suppression issue, of course, but it ain't nuthin.

04 May 2021

Country Roads

How's an interstate travel ban sound? Now that we're down, mostly, to the two main anti-vaccine groups, Trumpsters and Godnuts, let's make sure they're bottled up in their own hollers and revival tents in their Ruby Red States. Come this winter of our disconnect, may be they'll kill off a substantial number of themselves. The Blacks-only-enforced voter suppression gigs will be offset. A bit. That's 'Good Eats'. And, following on with speculation/prediction in these missives, the 'experts' now conclude that garden variety herd immunity is out of reach. Among the reasons: by elongating the vaccinations, Covid has more time to mutate; with upwards of 30% of Americans (the Real Americans) refusing to be vaccinated we get a double whammy, both more time to mutate and more bodies to infect; so, given both of the forgoing, the probability that a vaccine-resistent mutation can erupt here in the USofA increases.

Here are some current numbers on vaccinations and infections. One ought not to be surprised they go together like a horse and carriage. You'll note that these are nearly all Trump States or Trump Counties. Who would have guessed?

More than one epidemiologist is warning that if the USofA doesn't act as a communal society with a common enemy, winter 21-22 will look rather like 20-21. The biggest IF is, if Covid gets an extended period of time to transmit and mutate (and visits from shithole countries like India and Brazil), the greater the likelihood that a new surge, disconnected from original Covid-19, will be visited upon us. A price of Personal Freedom the Trumpsters and Godnuts are willing to pay; it seems. If only they get sick and die, then let them. But they have no right to visit that on the rest of us.

Thought For The Day - 4 May 2021

About those new and interesting voter suppression efforts in the Ruby Red Rural States. If you believe that any of those new laws and regulations are enforced anywhere but Black or Brown or Hispanic precincts, you're quite out of your skull. The fish-belly whites will get all of the water and snacks they need. Not, of course, that they'll really need either since their voting lines will be only three or four deep.

23 April 2021

The Tyranny of Average Cost - part the fifteenth

Well, well yet another episode in this continuing series, a paean to the power of amortization. Here's a tidbit from today's news. Regular reader clearly understands the notion underpinning the titles of this series: the more physical capital a production process requires, the less flexible it is in regard to profitable output level. The arithmetic is straightforward, by counter-example: with a labor intensive production function (say, plantation cotton), the bidnezzman hires (or just acquires) more workers to increase output; vice-versa should demand and output fall he simply sheds workers one way or another (unemployment insurance? we don't need no none of dat).

When the production function hits the tipping point (calculating that is no simple task) of capital/labor ratio, adjusting output to meet demand, i.e. reducing output, the cost of capital must still be paid, and average cost increases as that cost is spread over fewer units. The advantage of this mini-factory approach is a one-way street. It supports the idea of adding incrementally to capacity as demand builds, thus not having to build a River Rouge in the expectation that, some day, its full capacity can be sold. But the vice-versa does not happen; whenever demand slackens, some number of those mini-factories are just as redundant as a corner or two of a River Rouge, and their capital cost also does not disappear. The Piper still must be paid in either circumstance.

It is a problem. And, for the only time in recent memory, a Master of the Universe admits it. Be still my heart.
"The assembly line approach is very capital-intensive, and you have to get to very high production levels to make any margin," said Avinash Rugoobur, Arrival's president and a former General Motors executive. "The microfactory allows us to build vehicles profitably at really any volume."
[my emphasis, and Holy Shit!!! Who knew my readership went so far?]
Note well: Arrival isn't proposing to reduce capital content in its production function, if anything Arrival will end up with a higher capital/labor ratio in toto (all of those wonderful robots, which don't get sick or take lunch breaks, but you can't fire, either), but because of this mini-factory structure, they have convinced themselves that such yields a lower average cost. I doubt it.

Alas, Rugoobur is delusional. What matters: total sunk cost in physical capital and total output. It simply doesn't matter if that physical capital is embodied in The River Rouge plant or dozens of small plants scattered across the land. Shutting down one plant to reduce output still leaves the bill for the physical capital to pay. The Tyranny of Average Cost never goes away. Thinking that, by chopping capital into smaller bits, the Grim Reaper of amortization disappears is delusional. (I suspect this guy is an MBA. Let's see if we can find out. Perhaps goodly, not an MBA by that name. His last qualy is in Library Science.) The Tyranny of Average Cost applies to all costs and output levels. Slicing and dicing doesn't vanquish The Tyrant. The Tyrant lives in the production process, not the output level.

As a reminder: this basic idea, of dicing production into discrete bits and pieces, was attempted decades ago. It was/is called Cellular Manufacturing. The prime example: from 1987, and Volvo.
Building on concepts it pioneered at its 13-year-old plant here, Sweden's A. B. Volvo is now intent upon entirely jettisoning Ford's assembly line approach at a $315 million plant it is constructing at Uddevalla on the west coast of the Swedish peninsula. If all goes as planned, the plant will be organized into work teams - each of which will ultimately assemble a complete car by itself.
IOW, Arrival is old wine in new bottle. So, what happened to that Volvo plant? Let's see if we can find out. The plant was closed in 1994.

More detail here
Both are in southern Sweden, and negotiations began immediately with union leaders on the possibility of transferring some workers to Torslanda, on the west coast. Concentrating Volvo's car production in Sweden at one plant will save nearly $60 million annually, Mr. Jeansson said.
[my emphasis; how embarrassing]
Is past prologue? The Tyranny of Average Cost cannot be avoided. There is no veronica in physical production; you cannot escape The Bull by waving a red cape.

22 April 2021

About Those Wolves and Sheep

Did you or yours ever believe that the Right Wingnut assault on Big Tech was to protect Joe Sixpack from the ravaging Coastal High Tech wolves? Or, due to keeping up with the news, you clearly saw that the Right Wingnuts, not satisified with owning all of Murdoch and the vast Right Wing Conspiracy Network, they are determined to own the innterTubes, too? Yet another case of wolves in sheep's clothing.

Well, the latter has been my view from the start. The Right Wingnuts are the essential zero-sum contingent, thus they only see progress for themselves as driven solely by the deprivation of their Enemy.

So, today's news brings us the 'revelation' that Republicans are pushing Big Tech aside. For how long? We will see.
The lawmakers said in a letter that the companies had limited the reach of conservative voices, citing bans on the chat app Parler after it was used by participants in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and had abused their market power.
No mention, of course, of the flagrant lying that goes on in the Right Wingnut (so-called) News Organs. Of course not. Does it strike you as a tad odd that the Big Tech targets of the Right Wingnuts are within the sphere of the innterTubes? What about chip makers? Or AI outfits that shape public opinion? And let us not forget the estimable Palantir/Thiel. I have not heard any squeals of opposition about such entities from the Republicans; no bleating about the tyranny of corporations. And you would not expect them too, after all, politics as advertising got its rocket fuel from Atwater before and during Reagan.

21 April 2021

Karma's A Bitch

Oh, my!! Although Bordain sat down with Nugent, I still have no use for such a moron. Now we get the news that his claim of hoax has beat his ass nearly to death. Couldn't happen to a nastier guy.
[O]ver the last year he has spent most of his energy on denying the existence of Covid-19. Now Nugent, whose age at 72 makes him one of the most vulnerable to the virus, has admitted he has contracted the coronavirus.
I have never been so sick in all my life. I could barely crawl out of bed.
Good for him.