Tuesday, July 30, 2013

... and Now the Old Reader Shuts Down to Most Users...

After Google Reader shut down I migrated to the Old Reader, which offered a similar user interface. But they have been swamped with migrants from Google Reader and suffered a major crash and outage. They have decided to throw out all users who joined since 13th March unless they have donated money. I don't remember seeing a donate button. I would have been happy to pay for the service but the owners aren't interested in making money apparently. Now I have to move again. Seems that inoreader is the next port of call. Wonder how long it will last... Seems that anyone who could sell an application to run on users' machines that would help them access RSS feeds instead of a web-based RSS reader site would be able to make a lot of money.

P.S. 3:23pm In fact there is at least one application based RSS reader for Mac: NetNewsWire. Thanks to Chris Short for the recommendation. For the moment, InoReader is looking good, but if it goes the way of my previous two readers, I will give NetNewsWire a serious look.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Travel Cost Study: Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

I was interested to see a working paper on pricing Lake Nakuru National Park, which I recently visited.  They find that the revenue maximizing price for foreign visitors is $1500 compared to a fee of $75 currently. It is hard to imagine it could be this high given the existence of substitutes, though obviously some foreign visitors would be able to pay it. For comparison our whole trip for four days to Lake Nakuru and Maasai Mara cost less per person than than this suggested entrance fee for one day at one national park.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Joel Mokyr is Very Optimistic on Future Technological Progress

I've made a few posts in the last half year or so on the potential slowing of the rate of technological change and economic growth and the implications of continued technological change for the distribution of income. Economic historian Joel Mokyr discusses some of these issues in a very optimistic piece on the future of technological change and economic growth. He sees no real limits to advances in technology and sees the implications for the future of labor as positive.

U.S. Employment Trends

Some very interesting trends in US employment that I saw in a free newsletter I subscribe to. The data is from the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis. Total US employment has partially recovered from the Great Recession:

But things look very different when you break the total down into age groups (the first graph is not seasonally adjusted and the others are...). In the main 25-54 age group there has been little recovery:

while in the above 55's there was hardly a recession:

This graph is truly stunning I think. The under 25's seem to follow the pattern of total employment:

It's perhaps understandable that employment in this cheaper to hire group has rebounded strongly (but employment of 16-19 year old's has not), but what explains the almost lack of decline in employment in the over 55's? Usually, you'd expect older workers to be retired early in a recession.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Timur Kuran Calls Islamic Finance a Scam

I get a huge amount of spam from something called "Inayah Group". Most of it is in Arabic or has no content but I noticed this item while deleting the daily influx (I check quickly through my spam folder before deleting because I wouldn't want to delete legit e-mail from some grad student in a developing country etc.): Timur Kuran calls Islamic finance a scam in an interview in the Financial Times. I found this interesting because I had assumed that Islamic finance was based on equity investing rather than debt-based investing but here he says that interest is disguised as fees etc. Of course, Judaism also prohibits the charging of interest  to other Jews (as did Christianity in the past at least). This was got around using the heter iska (permit for business), which it seems is not that far from what Islamic finance does in practice. Another trick is to pay the interest to a third party rather than the lender.

ARC Releases 2014 Schedule

The ARC has released its schedule of important dates for 2014. In the past, funding rules and application dates have only been released close to the actual dates and so it has been hard to plan grant submissions. This was especially the case in 2011 when they announced that the closing date for Future Fellowship applications would be several months earlier than expected. There were relatively few applications that year as a result. That benefitted applicants as the success rate was higher. But then this round there were far more applicants than usual and the success rate will halve from 30% to 16%. So, this is a good move from the ARC to make the whole grant application process a little saner.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Global Energy Assessment

The Global Energy Assessment is now available for free online. This is a major international assessment of the prospects for energy transition launched in 2012. Chapter 1 "Energy Primer" is particularly useful, providing an introduction to energy systems. I am using it as a reading in my energy economics course that is starting this week (2nd year I am teaching it). It updates the 1996 energy primer that was included in the 2nd IPCC Assessment Report that I used as a teaching resource up till now.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back from IPCC Meeting

I'm finally back in Australia after travelling for almost 4 weeks including a week spent at the IPCC meeting in Addis Ababa. In the meantime Australia changed prime minister and all bets seem to be off about what party will be in power in Australia after the next federal election which should take place later this year. I was also in Spain, Israel, and Kenya, which was especially fascinating. This is one of the best of the many pictures that Shuang took:

Lion, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

In Addis I confirmed that I am very sensitive to high altitudes (2400m) got altitude sickness and then when I had apparently covered really got ill and am still recovering. So, I only got to about half the meetings I was supposed to be at. This is the fourth and final meeting for regular authors on the Working Group III's contribution to the 5th Assessment Report. We were addressing the comments from government representatives as well as additional comments from academics, NGOs etc. There is also a continued effort to try to make the report an integrated and readable whole which is a real challenge with so many chapter teams working most of the time alone and so many authors in each chapter team. Using the time at the author meetings effectively is important and difficult. The IPCC is seeking comments from member governments on its future. Here are the responses of the UK and Dutch governments. Both suggest the obvious that the IPCC should use the web more effectively and perhaps update its products on more of a rolling basis. The UN structure that the IPCC is embedded in makes this difficult I think. Everything needs to be approved by member governments. The inflexibility of the table of contents of each chapter which was laid out at an IPCC plenary meeting has been quite frustrating for some of us authors but we have had to stick to what was laid down several years ago before the actual subject specialists entered the picture. It's hard to see the governments giving up these powers for a more flexible approach.