Sunday, May 26, 2024

Taking a holiday break - no post this week

I am taking a break for the Memorial Day weekend and plan to post again on Sunday, June 2.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Yet more boondoggles: Extracting carbon dioxide from the air, mining asteroids

The dictionary doesn't quite do justice to the word "boondoggle" according to author Dmitri Orlov, best known for his book Reinventing Collapse. A contemporary boondoggle must not only be wasteful, it should, if possible, also create additional problems that can only be addressed by yet more boondoggles. (This does NOT preclude boondoggles from being profitable for certain insiders.)

In Orlov's universe, such boondoggles dissipate the wealth and vitality of a society until it collapses. But if executed properly, boondoggles first grind down society without actually collapsing it. When the collapse finally does comes, it is like "falling out of a ground-floor window." In the collapsenik lexicon, this is what passes for a soft landing.

Two important boondoggles were in the news recently: a big set of machines that extract carbon dioxide from the air and companies formed to mine asteroids.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Dr. Seuss and the weight-loss drug craze

As the weight-loss drug craze has taken off, I couldn't help thinking of a story my mother read to me when I was a child called "The Sneetches". The story was written by famed children's author Dr. Seuss.

The key character in "The Sneetches" is a huckster named Sylvester McMonkey McBean. The shrewd McBean observes that Sneetches—yellowish, flightless, bird-like creatures—come in two types: those with stars on their bellies and those without. The star-belly Sneetches consider themselves superior to those without. McBean brings in a machine that will attach a star to the belly of any Sneetch—for a price, of course. He does brisk business as all the Sneetches without stars line up to get theirs.

Once the star-belly Sneetches find out what's happening, they are aghast. They can no longer tell for certain which Sneetches are true star-belly Sneetches and which are imposters. McBean has a solution. It's a star-off machine which the congenital star-belly Sneetches flock to in order to re-establish their position of superiority in Sneetch society.

You can pretty much guess what comes next: The newly minted star-belly Sneetches rush to have the stars taken off their bellies in order to keep up with the original star-belly Sneetches who are now starless. But, of course, that's not the end of it. The whole society of Sneetches proceeds to cycle back and forth between the two machines, chasing the now elusive and ever-changing mark (or unmark) of status until the Sneetches are all penniless. McBean moves on. But in true Dr. Seuss fashion, the Sneetches realize that stars are not all that important and decide to live in harmony and equality for star-belly and non-star-belly Sneetches alike.

Getting back to diet drugs, the most important thing you need to know about these drugs is that you must continue to take them in order keep weight off. I feel that Sylvester McMonkey McBean must be in the wings somewhere.

Sunday, May 05, 2024