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Friday, August 01, 2008

News -- TGIF Edition

It’s a quiet morning in the markets so far. The energy markets are flat to slightly positive as the world waits for Iran to respond to an offer by major powers on its nuclear program.

By our standards, Iran would have to be crazy to turn the deal down. But Iran doesn’t run according to our standards.

Anyway, Iran’s answer is supposed to come Saturday. I expect the Iranians to put off making a real answer, as a delay serves their interests and hurts America’s interests. And sure enough, now the Allies are backing off from making Saturday the deadline. We shall see what happens.

News that the Israelis are taking a dimmer view of Iran’s nuclear program pushed oil up this morning.

In other news …

XX I had a link about the following story yesterday … here is more from the horse’s mouth (MIT itself) …

'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

[W]ithin 10 years, homeowners [may] be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

Suspect in 2001 anthrax attacks kills himself

A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

China's Manufacturing Contracts as Factories Shut to Cut Olympic Pollution Manufacturing in China contracted for the first time since a survey began in 2005 as export demand faltered and factories closed to clear the air before the Olympic Games.

China's Yuan Is Headed for Biggest Weekly Loss Since Dollar Peg Scrapped China's yuan completed the biggest weekly loss since a dollar peg was scrapped in 2005, as policy makers check the currency's advance to aid exporters. Bonds fell.

U.K. Manufacturing Shrinks Most in a Decade, Adds to Evidence of Recession U.K. manufacturing contracted by the most in a decade in July and prices charged by factories rose at the fastest pace since at least 1999, worsening the Bank of England's dilemma as it tries to avert a recession.

Oil, Copper, Gold Extend Drop After Worst Monthly Performance in 28 Years Crude oil, copper and gold fell, extending the worst monthly performance for commodities in 28 years, on concern that higher prices and slower economic growth are curbing demand.

This weekend, I'm going to do some intensive studies of the energy and metals markets, trying to divine where they're going. As one wag on Wall Street said today, "if you're not confused, you aren't paying attention." But there might be time for a book or two ...

Weekend Reading

The sociology of fictional places

Why are Star Wars Stormtroopers such lousy shots, anyway? And does that armor help them pick up chicks? Enquiring minds want to know.

Two Books I’m Reading Now

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

The first section discusses industrial farming; the second, organic food, both as big business and on a relatively small farm; and the third, what it is like to hunt and gather food for oneself. And each section culminates in a meal -- a cheeseburger and fries from McDonald's; roast chicken, vegetables and a salad from Whole Foods; and grilled chicken, corn and a chocolate soufflé (made with fresh eggs) from a sustainable farm; and, finally, mushrooms and pork, foraged from the wild.

If you’re familiar with the movie “Soylent Green,” then you know the last line is “Soylent Green is people!” Well it turns out, according to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, that “Americans are corn.”

I’m also about to start reading (because I can’t read just one book at a time) …

The Scar by China Mieville. Miéville's frantic heroine, Bellis Coldwine, is on a sea voyage when she is shanghaied and stranded on Armada, a legendary floating pirate city. Bellis becomes the reader's unbelieving eyes as she reluctantly learns to live on the gargantuan flotilla of stolen ships populated by a rabble of pirates, mercenaries, and press-ganged refugees. To give up any more of Miéville’s masterful plot here would only ruin the voyage through dangerous straits, political uprisings, watery nightmares, mutinous revenge, monstrous power plays, and grand aspirations.

It sounds like a trashy romance novel, but believe me, Mieville writes fantasy fiction on an epic scale. I was absolutely sucked into a book by the same author called Perdido Street Station.

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