Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yang Sighting

Mikeyp saw me on the internet.

6 elaborate forms of suicide passed off as extreme sports.

Poorly Made in China

I'm reading this book right now by Paul Midler, an American who works in China with manufacturing. It's about "quality fade," and as the book goes on, the author gets more and more negative about China. It's still funny to read about all the crazy stuff that goes on there, though, although I'm starting to be wary that it might be another China bashing book. At the same time, he says he likes to live there, and I don't see what he likes about living there if he has so many complaints.

Model Economy as Physics Problem

University of Utah physicist Tim Garrett did a study and came to a conclusion similar to the WORLD model conclusions.

Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use.

It certainly challenges Amory Lovins' school of thought where sustainability can be achieved through new business models and practices. I don't think it necessarily precludes sustainable business, but it's not as straightforward as many sustainable business proponents would like to believe.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Senate Health Care Bill

I haven't had time lately to really research the health care bill, but I am going to make an effort to do that in the coming weeks.

NYTimes article "Obama Backs Senate on Health Bills' Disparities"
The current price tag of the health care of the Senate is $848 billion over 10 years. It's hard to understand what this means, though, because I'm not sure what our current trajectory costs. They say that the costs will not add to the deficit. But how much does it add to the deficit if we don't pass the health bill? I have a hard time believing it's zero.

Anyway, there are now four pillars of the health care bill

1. cadillac plans' excise tax
2. not adding to the deficit
3. Medicare commission
4. promote "delivery system reforms" for high quality care vs high quantity care

Labor unions are against the excise tax on expensive plans. Here is some more information on what it would do.
The Senate bill would impose an excise tax of 40 percent on the cost of employer-sponsored insurance policies above $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. It provides for increasing those thresholds by $1,350 for individuals and $3,000 for families in cases where workers are in “a high-risk profession or employed to install electrical or telecommunications lines.” And there would be an additional increase in the thresholds, by the same amounts, in the 17 states where health insurance is most expensive.

More later on what these really all mean.

Your Disco Song

new song by Vitalic. I could have sworn Autotune the News used it, but now I can't find which one.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Civilization State

The LA Times recently had an article about Understanding China by Martin Jacques. I don't know that much about him, but he wrote "When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order." I'm not sure how much credibility he has.

I like this characterization of the "civilization state," though. It is an idea that is often described and touched on when Chinese nationals try to explain the nature of the Chinese state compared to the Western idea of a state. People try to say that Han is the race, but there are other races, too, since China is a state. At the same time, there is Chinese culture just as there is American culture, although it's more ethnic so there can be ethnic Chinese people that live in other countries. They are probably usually ethnic Han, but people usually say ethnic Chinese. In contrast, American is not thought of as an ethnicity, although Americans who live overseas are still considered American, but then if they are ethnic Irish or something, they would still be considered Irish. It all makes more sense if China is thought of as a civilization state because then you can see how being Chinese is more than being ethnic Han.

It also makes it easier to explain why all the territorial conflicts are so complicated. When China became a modern state, the boundaries were being drawn. However, the civilization state has a collective idea of where the boundaries should be. Since the civilization has been around longer than the current government, the idea of where the boundaries are can extend beyond the jurisdiction of the government.

recent dream

I been dreaming a lot this past week, and I had a really really good one.

I was on this train traveling over vast tracks of natural wilderness, mostly plains, but also shrubbery, maybe sort of like Africa and parts of China. It was really pretty. There were some mountains in the background. It was supposed to be a scenic ride. Then, the train went down a waterfall! It was like there were tracks right next to the waterfall or kind of on top of it like a roller coaster. I could feel the inertia of going down, too, the kind of uncomfortable feeling of my stomach going up. I got the feeling of wanting it to stop, but then I became ok with that feeling, and it was more enjoyable. The train kept riding around the plains a little and it went down another waterfall before the ride ended. A lot more stuff happened afterward, but I don't really remember clearly. Lilian was there, too, and she might have been wearing a tutu.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Art House

This weekend, Lilian and I went to check out the Brickbottom Artists Association Open House. It's this apartment complex in Somerville, where artists have live-in studios. It was really cool. It was so fun to see their rooms because some of them had put in interesting partitions and levels for their living quarters. It's like a playground. Maybe I would really like to live in that kind of warehouse and then build up the inside. Unfortunately I do not have pictures.

GRE butt

yup, i kicked it this weekend, whooo!!!

now i can get on with my applications.

Monday, November 16, 2009


This weekend, Smark and I went to Sandrine's for dinner, which is a French bistro in Harvard Square. It was amaazing. My favorite was the pan-seared foie gras. I love foie gras. I get a mouth orgasm when I eat it. Smark got filet mignon, and we got salads, and also onion soup. For dessert, we split a creme brulee. Our waiter was awesome, too. He looked authentic for a French restaurant for some reason, like a butcher/sailor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Critique of Cap and Trade

Wa Po article about cap and trade

The merits of cap and trade is a big contentious issue amongst the environmental community. The Breakthrough Institute has been talking about it a lot lately, and they have come down against it.



Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tom Fiddaman

Model wiki

NSF Research Proposal

The availability of affordable energy is crucial to all aspects of life. However, it is urgent for the United States to move away from fossil fuel energy not only because its usage undermines national security because of reliance on foreign oil but also because of the wide implications of releasing more carbon into the atmosphere. Obama said, “The system of energy that powers our economy also undermines our security and endangers our planet.” To minimize foreign oil use and carbon emissions, there are two strategies: finding alternative supplies and reducing energy usage. I am particularly interested in reducing the carbon footprint by reducing energy usage.

Government programs and the private investors are funding research and development of many promising technologies and business models. Some claim that companies are voluntarily adopting sustainability practices because it is profitable, implying those companies that do not reform will eventually be run out of business. However, many costs incurred on the environment and securing foreign oil supply are not paid up front, so the market is not optimized to develop the most energy efficient technologies and business models.

Meanwhile, the government will attempt to invest tax dollars to meet this national priority that the market is not optimized to meet. At an energy speech at MIT, Obama explains that the Recovery Act, which “includes $80 billion to … modernize the electric grid; make our homes and businesses more energy efficient, etc.” It is unclear that the government can use tax dollars efficiently to develop the best technology, especially since the energy sector is so complex. The government and the market share the problem that even after a new technology is implemented it can be hard to gauge its effectiveness.

Research Proposal
Creating system dynamics models of the effects of new technology and programs on energy consumption and carbon footprint can help identify priorities. System dynamics is a field where interactions between socioeconomic elements are modeled by aggregate totals (stocks) and rates of change (flows). The biggest advantages to system dynamics are that simple rules can model a very complex system, effects of exponential is better represented, and delays in the system can be accounted for.

Sterman has demonstrated the importance of including interactions with the economy when modeling the energy sector. Fiddaman modeled climate-economy interactions with oil and gas depletion as a source constraint. These models contribute to a better understanding of the energy-climate-economy system to inform some high level policy decisions such as carbon pricing. They cannot help with more detailed policy and investment options in new technologies or programs, which is why I want to focus on residential energy consumption and efficiency technology. Dyner et al made a model of residential energy consumption in Columbia examining the promotion of gas and efficient appliances (Dyner 1995). However, many factors were not included such as delays in implementation, service continuity, and operational risks. Also, the model did not integrate the performance of the surrounding economic landscape.

I want to study residential energy consumption and efforts to reduce it. The stocks of interest are energy demand, energy supply capacity, material standard of living, quality of life, carbon footprint, and GDP. Energy supply and demand would be split into foreign sources and domestic sources to track how well programs do to minimize energy use from foreign sources. The material standard of living is to represent the number of appliances per household. Then energy efficiency would be material standard of living divided by energy demand. Quality of life, on the other hand, would be a gauge of how many socioeconomic needs are being met, which may not be directly correlated with the material standard of living. Carbon footprint will be calculated from energy demand, and I want to include energy used to manufacture consumer goods, which is correlated with the material standard of living. Carbon footprint from producing renewable energy should also be included to examine how much acquiring new consumer goods and appliances offset the benefits of efficient appliances and renewable energy.

With this basic model in place, I primarily want to examine the effects of implementing energy efficient technologies. I want to compare different technologies such as CFL lights, light management, efficient entertainment systems, and HVAC systems. I want to incorporate interactions with the rest of the economy as well to study the impact of interest rates and GDP. In order for it to be most useful to me and others, I want to make it easy to add complexities such as transportation energy consumption in the form of modules. I envision having a core model of residential energy consumption with the economy and new energy efficient appliances as modules.

Expected Results
Jay W. Forrester made World2, which is the basis for the model in Limits to Growth, which was lasted updated in 2004. According to World2, efficient technologies will only delay depletion of resources, pollution, and crowding if capital investment is still exponential. I would expect results on residential energy consumption to corroborate this view.

Steven Chu gave a talk at MIT earlier this year promoting energy efficiency technology. However, new energy efficient technology can only reduce total energy consumption if the total number of appliances does not increase. Furthermore, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus from the BreakThrough Institute claim that widespread motivation for environmentalism is only possible if environmentalist goals are aligned with improving standard of living. As standard of living of Americans has improved over the past century, successfully implementing environmental legislation to reduce pollution, it has not reduced energy consumption or carbon footprint. In addition, much of the reduction in pollution has been a result of moving heavy industry overseas.

I expect to find that efficiency improvements to HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and lighting management technologies cause a net reduction in residential energy consumption. Gains from energy efficient devices themselves may simply be offset by using an increased number of appliances and the carbon footprint of producing more products. At the same time, production and consumer spending is needed for economic growth. I may find that new business models are required to reducing the carbon footprint.

Moving away from fossil fuel is critical to economic recovery. Evaluating new technology using system dynamics would make it possible for humans to be effective stewards of the environment while maintaining a high standard of living. I hope to create a platform for evaluating energy efficient technologies that can be expanded to evaluate new business models and other technologies like renewable energy.