18 March 2021

1) Griddy Energy, the Texas power retailer, filed for bankruptcy, becoming the latest casualty of the cold weather blast and sweeping blackouts that pushed electricity prices to historic highs. The company, after its customers received exorbitant power bills, blamed its downfall on Texas’s grid operator Ercot who is blamed for destroying Griddy’s business. Griddy is at least the third to file for bankruptcy. Ercot owes more than $29 million dollars, making the grid operator Texas’ largest unsecured creditor. Texas is unusual in the U.S. in that homeowners and businesses can choose from a number of power providers. Griddy charges wholesale prices instead of fixed ones, and knowing that rate structure would mean massive bills for its customers as power prices climbed, the company made the unusual move of pleading with customers to switch to another provider in mid-February, but some customers who didn’t switch in time were stuck with bills for thousands of dollars.

2) The world’s three biggest consumers of coal, the most dirty of the fossil fuels, are getting ready to boost usage so much that it’ll almost be as if the pandemic-induced drop in emissions never happened. The U.S. power plants will consume 16% more coal this year, and then an additional 3% in 2022. China and India, which together account for almost two-thirds of coal demand, have no plans to cut back in the near term. This means higher emissions, and in the U.S., the gains may undermine President Biden’s push to reestablish America as an environmental leader and raise pressure for him to quickly implement his climate agenda. Coal consumption at U.S. power plants is almost returning to 2019 levels. While in recent years, China has reduced the share of coal in their energy mix, total power consumption has risen, so its usage has also climbed. China has the world’s largest number of coal-fired power plants, so it’ll be tough to shift to alternatives. India is also a very long way from a clean grid, with coal continuing to account for around 70% of its electrical generation. Consumption at their power plants will rise 10% this year, and is set to increase every year through at least 2027.

3) Although little known to most people, sand is another natural resource becoming scarce. So China has launched a crackdown on illegal sand mining operations on the Yangtze river, which have made large parts of central China more vulnerable to drought. Sand mining in the river and its connecting lakes and tributaries has also affected shipping routes and made it harder for authorities to control summer floods.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 MAR 21:

Dow 33,015.37 up by 189.42
Nasdaq 13,525.20 up by 53.64
S&P 500 3,974.12 up by 11.41

10 Year Yield: up at 1.64%

Oil: down at $64.63

Yo-Yo’s of Life: The Threads Of Technology Displacement In My Latest Novel And How The Problems Of The Millenniums Are Rooted Decades In The Past.

By: James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

Economic & Finance Report

I just finished my fourth fictional novel under my pen name R.K.O. Timoshenko (all available on amazon.com) that is set in the mid 1970’s, when the roots of technology displacement of people was becoming prevalent. There are three characters, Heather who is a liberal arts major having been through a very abusive marriage and acrimonious divorce. Her landlord John, who is an engineer in the Air Force returning to the university to study electronics and computers, intent on joining the exploding computer revolution. And finally, the third main character, the MITS Altair 8800, the world’s first personal computer two years before the famous Apple II and TRS-80.

As a psychology major, Heather is very much an alien, or one who so fails to advance technologically that they become aliens in their homeland. She and John are about as opposite as people can be, plus having faulty perceptions of each other from their senior year together in highschool. But years later, circumstances bring them together as tenant and landlord while both attend university. In discussing the problems for women and the woman’s liberation movement with her teacher Gloria, Heather complains that the movement is geared to the professional woman, the upper 5% of the American woman population. That the movement seems to look down on woman working as secretaries and typist, which then comprised about one third the jobs that woman worked at. She then poses the question of what will the woman’s

movement do if these computer boys should invent a machine that replaces the secretary/typist thus eliminating a third of the jobs for woman, not realizing she has accurately forecasted the future for so many woman. That in just a few more months, the first wordprocessor program for small computers would appear, and with the explosive growth of low cost personal computers, all those jobs would disappear in a decade. That in less than ten years, the US Department of Labor would announce they were drastically reducing their career forecast for secretary/typist because of the unforseen impact of new technologies – the word processor with low cost computers.

The computer boys had indeed replaced one third of the jobs for American women.

And as is so often the case, the ‘Gloria’s’ have no answers. But this is just one example of jobs being eliminate by low cost computers, for in the factories, robots where becoming more prevalent and so were also eliminating many of those good paying manufacturing jobs for the men. I recently saw a news article about a California manufacture of high end flashlights, the factory owner complaining that since he had to use two parts made in China, he couldn’t put “Made in America” on the label, which was the point of the news report. But they showed pictures of the factory, which employed about 300 people, and it was huge! It looked like about three aircraft hangers set end to end, and as far as you could see, there was line after line of green metal cabinets. Little industrial sheet metal houses … where the machine robots lives! There was only one or two humans walking the aisles and cross walkways. It’s a factory, like so many other American factories, where most of the 0employees0 are machines.

It’s been that way across the spectrum of both manufacturing and business in general, and this process continues today, changing the world and future for the millenniums because automation and technology displacement is now on the middle and upper income white collar workers. Since the economic crash in 2007, there has been numenius news reports of middle and upper level management in the six figures income, who have been laid off. Where once they could find new jobs in a few days to weeks, they have gone months, even years without a nibble. And in those reports, the people express confusion why they can’t find new jobs. This is the result of another artifact of technology displacement called “Organizational Innovation” as described in the new book “Race Against the Machine” 1 where advancements in communications and computers have allowed corporations to reorganize themselves to do the work with fewer skilled management people.

Automation and technology displacement is no longer some poor sod working down on the factory floor, for that’s now all done and past tense. It’s now the higher level, higher paid workers who are the targets of automation.

It was just by happenstance that the woman character Heather foretold what would happen to so many women, and how the woman’s movement, which she supported, would have little effect on improving the station of woman in American society simple because it did not recognize and address the growing problem of technology displacement for both men and woman. You can’t solve problems by ignoring major components of a problem.

In the book, computers are used to show the pronounced gulf between ‘Heather the alien’ and

‘John the technologist’, which is the bases for their conflict and incompatibility. They are going in different directions in life, with Heather trying to understand just what this incompatibility really is, while John is absorbed in understanding and enjoying the emerging digital electronics technology. But despite their fundamental differences, living close together intertwines their lives more and more, until slowly they become one as a married couple.

While this story is set in 1975-6, it continues unabated today for the millenniums as they struggle for a future of their own.

1) “Race Against the Machine”, Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee, Digital Frontier Press, Lexington, Massachusetts, 2011, p56.

Ebay & Delta: Companies Defining the New and Different World, in which the Youth Are Living In.

By: James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

Economic & Finance Report

I keep telling people that the world of my generation (second half twentieth century) has already slipped away, died, never to return … that the world for the millenniums is completely different from my generation.  How? Well, I just had a stark demonstration of how that world is so very different from my world.  I’ve been getting rid of some of the things I’ve accumulated over the years by putting them on the auction service eBay.  One item was a radio control transmitter, almost never used, that was in excellent condition, and I anticipated selling for a good price.   I had a sever problem with eBay’s system that resulted in selling it for a fraction of what I expected.  I tried to send an email detailing the problem, only to find I was limited to just 100 characters.  Below is the email I tried to send, which best explains my problem.

I had a Radio control transmitter, Hi-tec Laser 6 channel FM (PPM) R/C up for auction this last week with a starting bid of $15, item number 152531590747 ending this last Sunday evening.  I had a lot of interest, something like 116 views the last time I checked, about a dozen or more watching, and six or more bidders.  Trouble is, despite all these bids, the bid amount remained fixed at the $15  I specified for starting.  And so that’s what it sold for!

 Now just what is going on here?  With the product type and interest shown, I would expect it to have sold for $80 to $100, instead I practically gave it away.  Is this suppose to be some practical joke by one of the mirid of programmers sitting on your payroll?  Considering the time and effort I put in with the pictures and written description, I would have been better off just to have taken it down to Goodwill!

As a degree electronic engineer having spent most of my career with embedded systems, I’m shocked by how poorly your software has matured.  Your software is as buggy as flour full of weevils!!  I see the basic system is continually being changed, with snags which I considered should have been resolved years ago.  Considering how long your company has been operating, your system should by now be very stable requiring few changes to its design.

 I consider my loss to be the result of the poor performance of your software staff, in particular the management in the software department.  It’s past time for eBay to have a thorough house cleaning of it’s software management personnel, particularly the upper levels of management, and start getting qualified people in who have the knowledge and ability to manage large software systems.

 But like so many other giant modern American business, eBay has insulated themselves from the troubles and bother of their customers by using technology.  The little trick of limiting an email to just 100 characters, 40 less than a tweet, is a prime example.  Just the first sentence of my proposed email ran 185 characters, almost twice what was allowed.  Their idea for customer service, and it’s the same for so many other large American companies, is to create some on-line ‘puzzle palace’ of canned answers, leading the customer around and around in software loops until they tire and give up.

The recent video on television news, of Delta Airlines arbitrary and capricious treatment of a paying customer being beaten and bodily dragged off their airplane, graphically shows the companies real attitude towards their customer base.  And these two events made me realize just how different today’s millenniums world is from the world I grew up and came to know.  In my youth, companies bent over backwards, jumped through hoops making sure their customers were taken care of, the axiom of American business being:

Take care of your customers … or somebody else will!

But not today.  Today’s companies consider their customers as nothing more than livestock to be  cultivated and herded around using the modern technologies of mass media and the internet.  I know . . . I used to live on a farm and worked with livestock.  Their attitude is the same as any farmer or rancher towards their cattle or hogs.  This typifies what I mean when I say the world of the millennium’s parents has faded away and died, while the millennium’s world is completely different from my world.  In my time companies who acted in such a manner towards their customers would have found themselves lepers in American society, slowly dying just as surely as if they had leprosy.  In the long run, this can only hurt American business and the economy.

 

But the same modern technologies which destroyed my world and created the millennium’s commercial world has gone beyond the economic boundaries to be infused into America’s political system, with the same disastrous results.  Elected officials (Presidents, Vice-presidents, Senators and Congressmen) no longer work at the problems plaguing their constituents, instead they ‘work their people’ using the mass media and mass advertising technologies of commerce to cultivate and manipulate their voters to their own ends and means.  For so much of the government, people are just livestock for them to use as they see fit.

 

In not addressing the problem of obsolescence of workers, they have destroyed the whole future of a whole generation, the generation of the millenniums and Z Generation.  With 20% to 25% of new college graduates unemployed or under-employed, one shouldn’t be surprised at the growing student unrest

 

No one cares about the young people, so no one is doing anything to address their problems.

RICO RECKLEZZ NEW SINGLE: “WHERE U FROM” feat. PRINCE EAZY…

By: Economic & Finance Report

Got off the jack with King Dave (Rico Recklezz manager), they just finished the video for the hot single ” Where U From”.C heck it out below…

New Single by Renegade Commander Rico Recklezz… check it out the new single “Where U From”, off of Rico Recklezz’s latest mixtape Call Recklezz…. Single is called “Where U From” feat Prince Eazy….. Check bio below -SB

Tiny House – Tiny Future: Popular Televison Show Foretells The Future For America’s Youth


tiny-house

By: James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

Have you by chance, seen any of the new television shows about small houses, that is, houses under five hundred square feet?  One of the first, and my wife's favorite, is the show "Tiny House Nation", which advocates all the advantages and wonderful life stye of mininalistic living.  Minimum living space, minimum possessions, minimum cost and expenses.  At the start of this show, they state that the average American home is 2,300 square feet, but people are shifting to one tenth that size or 230 square feet.  And it's all about money!  Tiny houses are just cheaper than larger conventional houses.



For the youth of America, the millenniums with their ever shrinking career prospects and smaller futures, saving money has a big appeal, especially when it means getting a place of their own instead of living with mom and dad or in some dinky apartment sharing with other millenniums.  In the short run, it seems like an ideal answer to millenniums limited financial means, especially when strapped with massive student loan debt.



The fly in the ointment is since the first oil crisis in 1973, the government's answer to obsolete people has been the service economy, or hyper-consumerism.  An economy based on people buying lots of things, consumer goods, the sale of which gives jobs to other people who make, ship, store and stock those consumer goods.  But tiny houses are cheaper because it takes less to build them, both the materials and labor.  That means fewer jobs needed, both to build the tiny house itself, and to make, ship and sell the materials used to construct the tiny house.   House building is priced by so much per square foot (floor space area), so a tiny house that's one tenth the area of a conventional house will be about one tenth the cost, and that means one tenth the labor and one tenth the building materials cost.



However, the savings doesn't stop there!  The very small space means there's far less space to keep things, so the homeowner can't buy all those consumer goods which their parents and even their grandparents bought.  The implication for a hyper-consumerism based economy is obvious, there's going to be far less consumer activity, which again translates into loss jobs.  With less consumer purchasing that only means a smaller hyper-consumerism economy, which means  a contraction of the economy over the long run.  So this makes the tiny house craze a bellwether of our hyper-consumerism, the shrinking of our economy meaning fewer jobs and opportunities for the youth of America who are already facing limited opportunities in making their way in life.  In turn, these diminishing economic choices and opportunities means that for those young who are employed, they have a greater financially burden to carry (taxes), further pulling them down into an abysses.



Another major aspect of the tiny houses, that advocates are not considering, is the house has traditionally been the principle investment for people, especially for their retirement years.  People depend on the value of their house increasing over time, then after they are over fifty-five years old, selling out and taking their one time tax exemption to leave them with the money to live their final years with.  But one tenth the house value means one tenth the monies for retirement years, assuming that tiny house values will also increase like traditional house prices.  Furthermore, diminishing sales of traditional houses from the youth opting for tiny houses creates a downward pressure on the valuation of those traditional houses.  Supply and demand, so as the supply of traditional houses increase then their prices will drop.  This in turn affects the financial future of the non-millenniums.  More overall contraction of the economy over the long run, as more and more millenniums are frozen out of the traditional American economy.



We have just concluded another national election, which has left the media gasping and sputtering over what has just happened, with Americans voting in Donald Trump as hope for real needed change.  But the fly in the ointment   is the president is not the 'King of America', so Mr. Trump is not the American government, especially on the domestic scene, since Congress is the one who is constitutionally charged with governing America. And until we have a functioning government, instead of a gaggle of professional celebrates, the problems of the millenniums and their future will not be addressed, let alone any viable solutions offered.  The needed change was with the Congress, which has not changed at all.  

We're still in the same fix!

What I’m Telling the Kiddis: Advice for the Youth of America in a New World and Economy

 

computer room

By: James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

Economic & Finance Report

You may wonder what advice to America’s youth has to do with economics and finance.  Quite simply, any change to the environment will have some effect on the nation’s economy, and my advice goes to the heart of that change.  The explosive growth of technology, and what can be done with automation, is changing the environment at an ever increasing amount.  The great tragedy I see unfolding today is the middle, highschool and college students are preparing themselves for the world of their parents and my generation.  A world that no loner exists!

 

That’s why I tell kids that the true measure of an education is the ability to understand the world you live in, and in the twenty-first century, that means having the sciences and mathematics.  If you don’t have the mathematics and sciences, then you don’t have an education, no matter how much paper you have to hang on the wall, or how prestigious it is.  More comes from mastering science and math than a mastery of specialized knowledge, for one gains the intellectual skills of rational thinking, analysis, problem solving, planning and organizing.  Right now, half the graduates of science and engineering majors never work a day in their fields of study.  Not that they don’t get jobs . . . they do, for these are the people that corporations know they need to survive and prosper in the twenty-first century.

 

I tell them to forget about what is written on that degree, that once they are out in the work force, they will be surprised, if not shocked, how many people are working at something different from what is written on their degree.  They need to take as much mathematics and science that they can, but also they need to take as stiff a curriculum as they can possibly choke down.  Your college program is more than just acquiring knowledge . . . you’re also proving yourself.  Just like a little African boy who must go out with a couple three spears and a shield to single handedly kill a lion or tiger, to prove himself a man, a warrior and be accepted by his people, so must today’s youth.  Although most students don’t realize it, that’s exactly what they are doing with their college work.  Now if they go out and kill the neighbor’s cat (philosophy , education, history, counseling, ect.), then no one is going to think much of them.  You have to kill the lion, the tiger or such.  You don’t prove anything with a mickey-mouse program.

 

You continually see this with the 20% plus unemployed or underemployed for new college graduates.  In one recent year, Texas universities graduated 5,000 psychology majors, but there was only ten psychology based jobs available.  For years I have witnessed new graduates with weak degrees going out into the job market only to find they have nothing marketable, who then elect to return to the universities and pursue the law.  The market for lawyers is now so saturated that only 20% to 50% of new graduates can actually find a job as a lawyer.  For instance, the sister of the movie actress Sandra Bullock is a lawyer, but manages a restaurant in Austin.  In my youth, that was a job for highschool graduates

.

For my generation (started college 1967), the average American changed career fields three times over their lifetime.  For today’s youth I can easily seeing them having to change five, six even seven or more times during their working lifetime.  In order for them to successfully do this, they need the strong foundation that comes from those math and science course, and those who don’t have that foundation will find it more and more difficult not to be abandoned and left behind.  Technology displacement is no longer some poor slob standing on a factory production line waiting to be replaced by a machine.  That’s past tense and already largely done.  Looking at news stories during this recession, there have been a number of six figure income people who have been laid off.  Where once they could have a new job in a few days to a few weeks, they have gone months, even years with little prospects.  Just Google these three words . . . IBM, Watson and Jeopardy . . . you’ll find a revolution in artificial intelligence, and it’s already commercially available for practicing medicine.

 

Several years ago we were visiting my sister-in-law, and happened to be watching the national news when there was an announcement that one of the large hi-tech corporations was laying off 5,000, 15,000 or something like that people.  My sister-in-law exclaimed, “Why do they do that?  They’ll just have to hire them back!  Who’s going to do the work!!”, and I explained that with modern computer and communications technology, the remaining workers will do the work.  That not only can they do the work, but most likely will do it better, faster and more efficiently.  That all those jobs were gone forever, and more importantly, as technology continues to advance, this will happen again and again over the economy and the business environment.  Today, the question isn’t about getting a job after graduating, it’s about getting jobs for the next forty to fifty years as technology continues to advance and displace working people.

 

As in the past, advancements of technology has forced higher and higher levels of educations, consequently the whole fabric of our economy is continually changing.  You only have to look at the second half of the nineteenth century, and each quarter of the twentieth century to see this, with each quarter significantly changed from the previous one.  Not only does today’s business find the market different, but as technology continues to displace people, they will increasingly be left to support an ever expanding burden of obsolete people unable to make contributions to society.  If left to continue as-is, this burden will continue to weigh down the economy, pulling it and business down just as with English socialism in the fifties and sixties where business and the educated abandoned England for other countries.  It was called the Great Brain Drain of Britain.

 

The world is moving forward, advancing technologically every day, and those who fail to advance, for what ever reason, get dropped off and left behind.

In Ten Years … All the Teachers will be Gone ATS- The Next Coming Computer-Internet Revolution

technology revolution

ATS- The Next Coming Computer-Internet Revolution

Economic & Finance Report

By : James Lymon BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

For many long years, e-learning has been the seemingly unfulfilled promise that is finally arriving.  It is slowly seeping into the general classrooms, starting from the top in the collegian arena, but making steady progress down the pyramid of the American education system.  You may remember about two years ago, news stories about a teacher in Illinois who got transferred from a highschool where she had taught for years, to a middle school.  She then brought suit against the school district claiming she was allergic to children, trying to force her return to the highschool.  I heard only one report that gave the crucial fact of the case.  A language teacher of French and Spanish, she had been displaced by technology- the highschool deciding to teach languages over the internet. 

 

Colleges and universities have become rife with online courses as institutions seek ways to reduce their operating cost, with claims that 40% of college courses are now online.  Some universities have degree programs obtainable exclusively online, students never stepping foot on a campus.  And we can expect the same thing to happen in public schools as they too seek ways to reduce their operating cost.  But ATS promises to give more than cost savings, for the system can easily be designed to adjust the amount of teaching to individual students, making it something of a tutor.  So if a student is good in math, but has trouble with English, then the system automatically spends more instruction time on English and less on math.  This allows each student to progress at their own pace.  Using a Socratic emulator of continual question-answers, ATS holds the attention of a student, thus being far more effective at teaching than the traditional mass lecture system.  By using a series of questions, the machine leads the student back and forth over a concept or principle until the student discovers it, and self discovery is the best way to learn.  You always remember what you discovered for yourself.

 

Nevertheless, there is a ton of money to be made, just as with previous computer/internet revolutions.  And whoever gets there first will have a licences to print money.  The problem is no longer the technology, it’s now a marketing problem.  Once the marketing model of cable and satellite television is adopted, then the market will take off like the proverbial scalded cat.  When a sales rep can go into a school board and say, “Clear everything out of your classrooms.  Save it, give it away, burn it, sell it, store it . . . make fish blinds out of it . . . we don’t care!  We will come in, set up our individual integrated learning stations, cubicles and chairs, each with a computer and video screen.  Then wire each together to local servers and monitor computers for room monitors, and connect the system to the internet … and it wont cost you one red cent.  And while you are now paying $750, $950 or $1150 per student, per course, per semester, we will charge you $250, $350 or $450 per student, per course, per semester.”  Once the courses are built, there will only be some small software maintenance cost and with furniture and computer equipment good for at least ten years, the breakeven should come quickly, meaning the cost to the schools can only come down more.

 

In new product development, the domineering question for marketing success is the unfulfilled need- what need is there for a product that people are willing to spend their money on to fulfill this perceived need.  Therefore, the question for ATS as a viable product is exactly what is the unfulfilled need to be fulfill?  To answer quite frankly, if not brutally, it’s years of chronic nonperformance of America’s public schools, as typified by America’s ranking of academic achievement relative to other western nations.  These numbers are so often quoted in news reports that I won’t bother giving specific numbers, other than America ranks in the mid twenties to the thirties with other developed nations. 

 

Today, the first 12 years of school are largely a waste, graduates simply unable to get a job because they are so poorly educated, while job nonperformance (the teachers) has always been a major incentive for automation.  When an industry can’t get a job or task done correctly and in a timely manner, business starts looking for a machine that can.  This nonperformance is the unfulfilled need of the market.

 

Another factor is the staggering cost which several states are now suffering, which has reached the point where state governments are looking for any means of relief.  States are facing financial crisis in part because of their expensive, yet ineffective school systems swallowing up scare dollars.  More and more states are desperately looking for any solution from their fiscal dilemma, leaving state legislators facing money shortages and threats of having to raise taxes again.  That’s when they start looking for any solutions that will get voters off their backs.

                        .

As is so often the case with government institutions, they have forgotten the golden rule of the marketplace:

 

Take care of your customer or somebody else will

 

This market is over primed and ready for exploitation as few markets have ever been.  It’s the 1848 Sutter’s Mill, waiting for someone with “pick and shovel” (resources) to see the yellow glint of gold in the stream, then just start shoveling it out.  It’s the 49’ers Gold Rush of the twenty-first century, with ATS not only doing the job cheaper, but doing it much better.

Somebody is going to get very, very rich!