US is the top oil-producing country in the world

CNN has a nice graph showing the top oil producers of the world. Here’s the data for 2014 and 2015.

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You notice two things: the production trend is positive. That partly explains the downward trend in prices over the last year or so. In the not too distant past, I had paid as much as $4.50 per gallon of gas in the SF Bay area. Recently I paid as little as $1.90 per gal at the same pump. It was delightful to pump gas. When I was visiting New Jersey in January, I paid just $1.50 per gal. (For those who are unfamiliar with the archaic system of measurement in the US, a US gallon is 3.78 liters.)

In the US, gas prices move with world prices of crude. No such luck in India. Indians are forced to pay whatever the licence permit quota control raj decrees. Which basically translates into allocative inefficiency, and that means increased poverty. Indians have some seriously shitty karma that they have such worthless governments that don’t understand basic economics.

It’s all karma, neh?

On Technology, Prosperity and Dysfunctional Ideologies

We take it as a given, almost a fact of nature like the seasons or the geography of continents, that different parts of the world enjoy different levels of prosperity. But there’s nothing “natural” about this since this is almost entirely within human control. The differences are stark, and at one end of the scale, heartbreaking. Consider the extremely rich first. Luxembourg has an annual per capita income of over $110,000, Norway over $100,000, Switzerland around $85,000. Those are small countries and outliers with perhaps little to tell us. But the US is large and has an annual per capita income of $53,000. Why is it so rich?

At the other end of the scale are Burundi and Malawi with only $200 or so annual per capita incomes. Why are they so poor? The richest countries are around 500 times richer in per capita terms than the poorest. What accounts for this inequality in incomes of countries? That question has engaged the attention of people for hundreds of years — starting with of course the great Scottish economist Adam Smith who inquired about “The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” in his famous 1776 book.
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The Wisdom of SS Ravi Shankar

A friend recently quoted SS Ravi Shankar’s profound proclamation. It goes:

“There are people who are married and unhappy and there are people who are unmarried and unhappy. Then there are people who are married and happy and there are people who are unmarried and happy. You better be in the second category. Whether you are married or not, if you are happy, if you are centered, then you are close to enlightenment.”

I read it and I am forced to agree with the German historian Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759 – 1805) that against stupidity, even the gods struggle in vain. We mere mortals are powerless to resist such inanities.

Human Exploration of Space is 55 years Old Today

On April 12th, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. The first human space flight lasted 108 minutes. He became an instant hero, as is right since it was an extremely risky voyage and he could have ended up dead. There are many unsung heroes in any such venture. I feel most for the person who was the chief designer of the space vehicle — Sergey Korolev (1907 -1966). Because of the secrecy of the Cold War, he worked without any recognition. The video below is about Gagarin’s historic flight. It recognizes the work of Korolev. Deep respect to both the heroes of the Soviet Union.

I find it remarkable how talented the people of the erstwhile Soviet Union were. Trouble was that even talent could not overcome the self-imposed handicap of communism. Remember that the Soviet Union was not a very large union — only around 200 million people around 1960. They were very successful in science and technology. But communism/socialism forges very heavy chains. Without freedom, even talented people fail. Slavery is always harmful and freedom always the key to prosperity. Too bad India continues to labor under socialist slavery.

Letter to the Canadian Passport office

Bureaucracy is hell. It is aggravating. Government bureaucracy is especially frustrating because the matters they deal with are monopolies — you don’t have a choice of going to some other service provider. And worst of all is the government bureaucracy of poor nations which is the worst of its kind. Indeed, much of the poverty of poor nations can be significantly attributed to the insanity of government bureaucrats and officials. That’s serious business since it costs lives. But even in the saner parts of the world, such as Canada, people do get fed up with bureaucratic idiocy. Here’s a funny example.
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A Path with a Heart

Our descriptions of reality are necessarily based on our perception of reality. But our descriptions are not what reality is because what we can perceive given our limited faculties cannot be comprehensive or even undistorted. The world appears magical but magic does not explain the world, if and when we do attempt to explain the world. Myriad explanations have been advanced. Each points to a limited aspect of that which lies beneath it all. Looking from each of those varied viewpoints and somehow integrating them may help us approach a better appreciation of reality.

Decades ago during my engineering undergraduate days, I had read a few of Carlos Castaneda’s books about a Yaqui shaman named don Juan Matus from Sonora, Mexico. Castenada was an anthropology student at University of California at Los Angeles in the 1960s. He wrote a book The Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, and submitted it as his master’s thesis. It was published by the University of California Press in 1968.
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Half Truths and Nehru

{My first blog was “Life is a Random Draw” which I started writing sometime in 2000 or so. Before blogs, we used to waste spend time on the usenet. Anyway, I hauled this bit from my Berkeley blog.}

Half truths. That’s what interests me today.

And when half truths are dished out by half-wits for the consumption of the totally witless, the result is curiously fascinating. That is of course a general statement and one would like a ‘fer instance’ at this point. And I am about to illustrate that general statement.
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Viruses, Ideas and their Life Expectancy

The wiki page about virus says that it “is a small infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms. Viruses can infect all types of life forms . . .” Ideas are analogous to viruses because they too are infectious agents that replicate in living brains. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme to mean a unit of idea that can infect a brain and get transmitted to other brains. Viruses are responsible for genetic diversity through horizontal gene transfer. Analogously, ideas are responsible for diversity of human mentality.

Viruses of biological kind are generally bad for the organism, just like the software variety are bad for computers. There are no good viruses. In contrast, ideas come in two principle varieties: the benevolent and the malevolent. The good kind leads to overall benefits, both to the individual with the idea and to the collective of individuals that have that idea. The malevolent kind inflicts great harm but they eventually die out. There are two pathways. One, they just destroy the host collective, thus resulting in the extinction of the bad idea. Or, two, they mutate into a less malevolent form that does not kill the host, or even into a benevolent idea that benefits the host. Good ideas are forever and bad ideas are never forever.
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A Misplaced Sense of Pride

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, polymath, inventor, scientist, writer, diplomat, etc., etc., Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) observed that “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” An analogous statement about nations could be that all nations are born poor but it requires hard work to keep it in poverty. Not surprisingly that hard work is properly done by the politicians of poor countries. What’s surprising is the evident pride they appear to take in their dismal accomplishment. They obviously revel in the fact that the country is poor and proclaim it loudly for all to marvel at. A recent statement on twitter (image below) by the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, retweeted over 1500 time no doubt approvingly by Indians, brought this to mind.
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