Archive for June, 2009


June 10, 2009

Built to Spill’s version of the epic Neil Young masterpiece ‘Cortez the Killer’ is fantastic! It comes in two parts (only audio):


I’m Going to Alaska

June 9, 2009

Ok, I was supposed to go to Amsterdam, but that went down the drain. I’m going to Juneau, Alaska for the 2009 World Conference on Natural Resource Modeling instead! I’m presenting a co-authored paper with Steve Stohs from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla (San Diego) entitled ‘A Kalman Filter for Environmental Risk: Spatio-temporal Variation in Sea Turtle Bycatch Rates.’ The abstract:

The drift gill-net fishery for swordfish off California and Oregon incidentally captures leatherback sea turtles. Leatherback turtles are endangered and it is necessary to manage the turtle take risk. Currently, the fishery is managed through a seasonal closure of an area which has experienced a relatively high turtle take rate. We model the turtle take risk as a Poisson process and apply a Kalman filter for count data in a classic formulation to estimate the take risk through time and space. The filter is extended to irregularly spaced observations. The risk is best understood as a long term average rate controlling for spatial and seasonal variations. Predictive probability distributions suggest that potential scenarios which motivated the seasonal closure are unlikely. The estimated spatiotemporal take risk gives rise to a permit scheme which manages the take risk and may improve profitability in the fishery. If permits are tradable, they could also improve efficiency in the fishing fleet.

Looking forward to take in this view!

Juneau, Alaska

The Net Gets Clouded

June 9, 2009

Last week, The Economist printed a leader on ‘cloud computing’ and some issues related to it. First, explaining ‘cloud computing’:

“Cloud computing”—the delivery of computer services from vast warehouses of shared machines—enables companies and individuals to cut costs by handing over the running of their e-mail, customer databases or accounting software to someone else, and then accessing it over the internet.

Cloud computing is a threat to the new-won openness from licenced software:

At the time, selling software to large companies was sometimes likened to drug dealing, because once a firm installed a piece of software, it had to pay a stream of licence fees for upgrades, security patches and technical support. Switching to a rival product was difficult and expensive. But with open-source software there was much less of a lock-in.

‘Cloud computing’ also threats to lock-in:

But customers risk losing control once again, in particular over their data, as they migrate into the cloud. Moving from one service provider to another could be even more difficult than switching between software packages in the old days. For a foretaste of this problem, try moving your MySpace profile to Facebook without manually retyping everything.

Luckily, I don’t have a profile with neither. I wonder what Weinberger has to say about this. (Not very much, it seems, but on his blog Everything is Miscellaneous he reports from a seminar on cloud computing; I couldn’t get the permanent link to work, but the entry comes up first if you search his blog for cloud computing).

The Purpose of Economics

June 3, 2009

The purpose of economics is, according to Gary Becker (a Chicago economist), ‘to understand and alleviate poverty.’ Levitt, at Freakonomics, writes

What’s surprising about Becker’s comment — and I believe he is telling the truth and not just being politically correct when he says helping the poor is the point of economics, because he never worries about political correctness — is that he is a staunch Republican and a firm believer in markets. There is no reason why that belief in markets can’t go hand in hand with really wanting to help the poor, it just usually doesn’t.

In a market economy, there are inevitably winners and losers. So most folks who worry about the poor are turned off by markets, believing that some other system could do a better job for the worst off. Becker, however, would argue that markets, especially when combined with access to good education, are the best shot the poor have.

In another Freakonomics post, Dubner discusses Becker’s idea of ‘the economic approach,’ where he somewhat surprisingly concludes that almost all deaths are suicides!