How to deal with the heat?

“[...] Stern’s assumption that our consumption can continue to grow while our emissions fall is implausible. To have any hope of making substantial cuts we have both to reduce our consumption and transfer resources to countries like China to pay for the switch to low-carbon technologies.”

- The Guardian Weekly, p. 20 , 27.03.2009

I think this raises the question of why China don’t have incentives to lower emissions on their own – don’t the Chinese central planner enjoy breathing unpolluted air? Is it because the technology is unavailable in China (or in other developing countries) so that the cost of reducing CO2 emissions are higher there? Or is it the (indefinitely lived) leaders time preference for consumption that is off?

Serious NATO gossip

There has been talk about it in the Danish newspapers for a long time, but I’ve always considered it gossip: the Danish prime mimster Anders Fogh Rasmussen as secretary general for NATO. However, now IHT.com is writing that the Canadian minister of defence has dropped out of the race. But the Turks are blocking for Mr. Fogh Rasmussen:

The Turks have objected to Mr. Rasmussen, citing these larger concerns. The Danish problem dates back to the publication in some Danish newspapers of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Denmark also allows supporters of the P.K.K., a Kurdish separatist group outlawed in Turkey, to operate a television station there.

Instead the post might go to the Norwegian foreign minister: 

If Turkey did not go along, another senior European official said, there was the possibility of turning to the Norwegian foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store, 49, who has studied both in the United States and in Paris.

So in the end the cartoon-crisis may hit Mr. Fogh Rasmussen in the head once again, which he probably deserves…  

Yeah, lets all be friends

This speech by Obama – a New Years compliments to Iran – is certainly not something one could have imagined taking place during the last eight years Bush administration. I reckon that this is going to be a remarkable Precidency, even though this one also seems to make a few wrong steps. And what is it with the Americans and this jovial style? Who could ever in their wildest dream imagine Anders Fogh Rasmussen take part in a talkshow like Jay Leno’s and talk about how his bowling skills were “like — it was like Special Olympics, or something” (he leaves those things to his wife, oh dear).But should a prime minster really be cozy and jovial? I remember reading somewhere that a journalist had asked AFR’s brother if he thought his brother was cozy (the danish Statsminister is known for running 10 kilometers every morning, never drinking, and being a bit of a ‘teflon’ politician). The brothers answere was something like: “no, he is not cozy, but he is the kind of person you would want to run the country”. And regardless of whether you would vote for the danish Prime minister or not, his brother has a point.

Getting back up on the bike

I’m going to Denmark for the easter and I’m looking forward to taking my motorbike out for a spin (and possibly even riding it back to Holland). Since November the the bike has been stored for the winter. My last ride in November – 4 hours to Jylland – was so cold that it is first now, when I see people riding their bikes on a sunny day, I feel like riding again.The last few days I’ve slobbered over the photos below. The bikes are both Kawasaki ER-6n’s. The white one is a 2009 model and the orange is a 2007 model like mine (except a few modifications). 

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Before the new season begins, I just have to remind myself of the mistakes and the experiences of last season (2008).

Balance. Don’t underestimate the significance of the gravitational force. It is okay when you are moving faster than 15-20 km per hour, but when you are travelling at slower paces, the combination of a low centrifugal force and gravitation will pull you down if you don’t pay attention. I have learned it the hard way. No details. It’s too embarrassing.

Water. A very persistent substance. It will get in EVERYWHERE that is not watertight. And travelling at road speeds apparently increases the substances ability to penetrate non-watertight materials, and the required exposure needed to attain an entirely soaking effect decreases. Using empirical methods, I’ve been able to determine that the duration of time necessary to achieve saturated boots is about 10 seconds @ 90 km/hour.

Roads. Has to be narrow with lots of curves. The autobahn is good enough for A to B transportation, when it is not too windy. On a naked bike, ever 100 km/hour is awful in a strong headwind (and the noise level in the helmet is another story). For the real riding experience take “Marguritruten” – small tertiary scenic routes all over Denmark made for tourists (and bikers). Or go to Norway. Their roads are simply first class for mortorbikes.

Crash helmet: the one I have now, I probably bought too cheap. It does not really fit my skull, so I get a huge red mark on my forehead after 30 minutes and it hurts like hell if I have to ride longer distances at autobahn-speeds. Additionally, it is a flip-up, so it is noisy and the visor easily mists up. To sum up: it can’t get any worse.

Gloves: For the Scandinavian climate, there is a non-neglible difference between summer and winter gloves. Don’t just ignore it and buy only summer gloves. If you are riding in temperatures below 10 degrees my definite advise is to get both!

Weather forecasts. Check it! Avoid fog, rain, and (strong) head winds. Riding in the dark is not pleasant either. Also avoid traffic jam in very hot weather.

On executive bonuses

So the big thing Over There is the executive bonuses paid out to the AIG bosses after the public bailout. Off course, that has caused anger. So Obama is doing what he can: nothing.  It’s all rethorics. 

 “On ABC’s The View, Whoopi Goldberg spoke for the rest of the nation when she looked into the camera and said, as if to AIG executives, “You can’t bend us over!”

But the sad truth is they can. And they probably will. And President Obama, despite his popularity and moral indignation, has few tools to stop them. The Treasury Department has already concluded that the bonuses in question, which were first made public in late January, cannot be rescinded because they resulted from airtight contracts that had been signed in April of 2008.” 

In Denmark, we have our own unsympathetic ex-boss – who was CEO of the biggest danish telephone company – sold the compagny to a capital fund (which has now run out of capital) and got a bonus of 150m – equivalent to 52,000 DKR (~ 7,000 EUR) a day according to a major Danish newspaper!

Source: time.com

Back to AIG. Surely, NY Times has a point in the warning of not to break a legal contract. Moreover, the AIG-bosses made the mess in the first place, so don’t you want them to help clean it up (a cliché, but still…)? They should know the system from inside:

A.I.G. employees concocted complex derivatives that then wormed their way through the global financial system. If they leave — the buzz on Wall Street is that some have, and more are ready to — they might simply turn around and trade against A.I.G.’s book.Why not? They know how bad it is. They built it.

So as unpalatable as it seems, taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats, if only to prevent them from turning against the company. In the end, we may actually be better off if they can figure out how to unwind these tricky investments.” 

Source: NY Times 

Tell Facebook friends when you plan to die

“With online social networks becoming ever more important in our lives, they’re also becoming an important element in our deaths.”

So do remember to tell your facebook friends about your plans to sneak out of this world.  I think this supports my belief that facebook or other online communities is not necessarily about ‘strong’ friendships, but also include ‘loose’ acquaintances. So perhaps it is a good idea to do a small cost-benefit analysis when you decide how you want to distribute your leisure time between maintaining your facebook profile and the ‘real’ social network. But I guess that’s obvious…

On last-minute bidding

Question: Why are most of the bids at an EBay or similar auction placed in the minutes before the auction ends?

To me, it seems like a waste of time that the bidders don’t just reveal their reservation price straight away, and then lean back in the confidence that they have done everything in their power to win the auction. And if this particular bidder did not win, then he could take pleasure in knowing that the item went to a bidder with a higher valuation of the item.

But why does online auctions not work like that? If they did, I recon that the bid-intensity would be the reverse: early in the auction the probability of being outbid would be high, because the likelihood of meeting an Ebayer with a higher willingness to pay was greater; but this probability would drop as the auction progressed because the risk of meeting a bidder with a higher valuation would drop (as he has already revealed himself).

However, empirically it does not seem to be like that. Why? Perhaps because all potential bidders have beliefs that the longer they hold their bid, the less is the risk that they have to reveal their ‘true’ reservation price; hence, this strategy raise the expected consumer surplus.

I don’t know if this is the reason, but if everyone acts according to this strategy, and you know that everyone does that, is it then not irrational to follow that strategy in the first place?

I found a few papers on the subject, which I will dig into when time permits:

 1. Last-minute bidding and the rules for ending second-price auctions

2.  Gone in 60 seconds: Last-minute bidding on EBay auctions

Michael Palin

As you’ve might have heard, Amsterdam is an exceptionally dull and boring city so what is there to do apart from work, eat and sleep? :-) Watch DVDs, off course. So I’ve bought BBCs “The Michael Palin Collection” box containing 16 discs.

My main expectation was perhaps a good laugh - you know why! or perhaps not? - and I was not disappointed in that regard either, but…

These DVDs simply hold the most fantastic travel programs I’ve ever seen! Can’t exactly tell you why – perhaps, it is the scenery he sees, the people he meet, the histories he tells, or simply the narrators British style. If you’re into travel programs, buy these!511qthd7jyl_ss500_.jpg