Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Revisiting Washington DC

It is always nice to visit the capital. All the museums and institutions around, the peaceful streets in the day time (crime is an issue once the night sets in) and all other opportunities that DC has to offer are giving it a special appeal. This time around we visited the U.S. Capitol Building and it was a nice adventure. Following it, we strolled a bit the streets, passing the White House, where preparations for the NY eve (or the Obama inauguration were taken place) and giving up on the Smithsonian Natural History Museum to give it a try at the adjacent ice skating ring, which unfortunately was also packed at that hour. Overall, a very nice way to spend a freezing but sunny December day.

Olympus E510 - the 2 lens kit

Finally, I got myself a new digital camera and this time I took the (not so big) step and move into the DSLR category. Indeed with a rather user friendly camera, but in the end they all are. You just need to master the half and fully manual modes and then you’re truly set. After long debates, I opted for the Olympus E-510. Why: 1. Price and lens kit: body + two lens kit (14-50mm and 40-150mm) at $535 is truly a bargain. 2. It has built-in stabilization (great feature! In low light or other difficult conditions); 3. LiveView (a bit strange but still useful coming from the point-and-shoot area). 4. Lots of preset modes; 5. Four thirds system which allows mounting even regular/film camera lens.
What can one use for perks: 1. Got myself a remote control from Ebay ($ 3.50 including shipping) from China; works great as a point and shoot. 2) camera bag: again I opted for Samsonite; although I saw some pretty nice bags for 30-50 bucks and the Samsonite on is a bit bulky and better suited for a camcorder, still is pretty good at 13$ from TJ Maxx; 3) the 4GB CF card from a yahoo store with 9 bucks; and you got yourself a nice camera set for under $600; 4) I also got the DVD on Olympus E510 Made it Easy of the web, but so far (disc 1) is mostly introductive and with little camera tips& tricks. Still, great for those who want to learn digital photography in 2-3 hrs. plus, after peaking at the second DVD, it looks like it is getting more interesting!:)
The E-520 was also released in 2008 but despite minor issues, from what I’ve read, it is very similar to the E-510 and since the price difference (and lens kit availability) is significant, I am pleased with my selection.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Japan's solar City

Well, Japan is ahead of many (again!) with this solar city. Although the story is inspiring, one dismal economist cannot wonder how much did they spend (out of tax money) to support this and how many years it will take for this complex to operate on the positive side (e.g. repay the government its subventions). Still, an issue to be explored and copied perhaps in sunny places like California, Italy or Spain.

The side effects of a recession on our energy revolution

While most of you (I am still a pedestrian by choice!) are enjoying historical prices at the pump, the damage of a recession to the energy improvements is as real as possible. Naturally, the first reaction is one of joy & relief after the barrel of crude oil reached $100 this year to see it these days below $50. Moreover, the analysts are expecting a further decrease towards the $30/barrel until the supply cuts will kick in for a rebound in the price. However, this cheap energy hurts the efforts of getting into the renewables and alternative fuels. With these prices, nobody will really look into such issues anymore. Despite what all environmentalists will say or do, NOBODY can beat the powerful effect of INCENTIVES. and PRICES are the most powerful one. and i really love this fact because it stems from pure neoclassical economics showing that, although each one of us is unique, we tend to respond pretty uniformly to incentives. Hence by this rationale, without higher prices for energy we will not move forward on changing our consumption and reducing our oil dependency. Two contingent issues: 1. the bail-out of the auto-makers -> tough issue from a social point of view (jobs will be lost; people will suffer; CEOs will prosper regardless--> no incentives!!) but really easy issue from an economic point of view (NO BAIL-OUT: inefficiencies; low competitiveness; all the wrong incentives & paths are there!); 2. the strategic long term perspective. The Obama administration will hopefully see the long term path to follow and adopt all the right measures to ensure that America would be able to sustain high oil prices (well above $100) and environmental constraints (carbon caps) that are very likely to come back in the news over the next few years. We have to remember that this is just a small break from reality. And that is saying sooner-than-latter we'll reach this threshold.

Yearly Blog Stats

Overall it has been, again, a good year. The clustermaps statistics depicts 2,275 visits from 19 Nov 2007 to 18 Oct 2008 (11 months), a serious upward bump from last year's figures: 1,342 between Nov. 2006 and Nov.2007. Moreover, the geographic spread has increased beyond North American soil including some interesting big red dots from Latin America (Brazil and Montevideo/Buenos Aires, Northern Europe and the UK, as well as Middle East, Indonesia/Philippines, Japan and Australia. Although Africa is also represented it seems natural& logic that only the extreme North & South + Madagascar would have a chance to appear here. And they do. It would have also been interesting to see what are the most searched articles (since it seems that search engines are the main paths for visitors). However, I didn't do it. Google Analytics gives you a monthly picture of all this and from the comments i would say that the Stata10 article/issue got most of the attention, a lot of people being confronted with it. Other than that, it is always fun to skip from politics to soccer, from music to economics and then end up with a movie review:). Here, here for 2009!!

Troy Victorian Stroll and First Snow

Today we got the first "serious" snow in Troy, NY. Not very serious but still enough to whiten the picture, if you get my drift. Incidentally, today is also the day of the Victorian Stroll a Sunday when stores and open in the historic downtown and people get dressed Victorian style and stroll. However, today the streets were rather empty, compared with the previous years. I guess the weather (awful freezing winds) took its toll, and once my camera ran out of battery I also went straight home. The peak of the day: seeing & listening to explanations about the Tiffany windows in the Episcopal Church in downtown Troy. Amazing and extremely delightful pieces of work!!