... seeking simple answers to complex problems, and in the process, disrupting the status quo in technology, art and neuroscience.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Back to the Future with Motorcycles

When I was a kid, our family had a number of small motorcycles for trail riding.  They were light, agile and got great gas mileage.  My favorite was a 1965 Yamaha Trailmaster 80.  I spend lots of time exploring the mountains of Norther California on that "bike".

Unfortunately, the same thing happened to trailbikes that happened to cars - over the years, they got heavier. Then motors got bigger to carry that extra weight, which made everything heavier still.  Unlike cars, this weight had more impact on handling, especially on rough ground.  It's not easy getting a 300 lb motorcycle over a log.

I'm still waiting for a modern version of the 1978 VW Rabbit which weighed 1880 pounds dry.  With modern technology it should be able to get 100 MPG.  In the mean-time, it looks like Yamaha may be thinking the same thing.  It's only a concept, but it's headed in the right direction:

Yamaha shows retro lightweight 125cc motorcycle that gets 220 mpg

Bring it on!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Economic Predictions

Yogi Berra: “It is dangerous to make forecasts, especially about the future.”

In spite of Mr Berra's advice, I'm going to start a post here which I will update from time to time to make my economic predictions a matter of public record.  Some of these are summarized from the past.  The rest are current, predicting the future.

12-12-12 - I don't necessarily agree, but nice work none the less:

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds

01-01-12 - The US Treasury still believes US banks have $9.9 trillion in home loans.  That's down only 7% ($10.6 trillion) from it's high in 2006.  Such denial!  A quarter will have to be written down sooner or later.  Another quarter will be paid by underwater home owners who simply don't want to move or accept the real value of their house.  So between the banks and home owners, there's still plenty of denial to go around.  I've said house prices won't bottom for another year, but this real estate toilet won't completely flush for another five to ten years (lost decade?).  With new construction minimal for at least another three years, US growth will continue it's long slow pull off the bottom with real growth rates staying under 4% and averaging only 2% for the next five years.  Still, real estate will remain the best long-term investment for anyone who has cash.

01-01-12 - The Euro will survive since Germany has already involuntarily funded the weak sisters through the central Buba bank claims of half a trillion Euros.  Now they only need formally loan that much so the weak sisters can own up to their claims in their central bank and hand the money back to them. In for a penny, in for a pound.

01-01-12 - China is building 36 million new apartments to distract investors from the 64 million condos already completed, but still standing empty. That's exactly 100 million new units total, which makes our 7 million empty houses look like a minor disturbance. 

The real question is, where will these 230 million people work when they come in from the farm?  And how much will they be paid?  The growth honeymoon is over in China.  Now they'll have to do it the hard way. Ironically, organized labor will be their next major political force on the street.  Stand by for volatile times in China.

01-12-15 - Canada's housing bubble should pop within 24 months.


01-31-11 - Collectibles will be the next financial bubble, will have a long expansion and selective contractions over years before final collapse.

06-29-14  RIGHT!  And it continues... The pain hasn't started.


The U.S. will gently return to a slow growth "new normal" as we complete our transformation to the information age, and continue to lead in tech design. 06-22-10

01-12-15 - As is common, the United States is leading the recovery.  The rest may catch up in a couple of years.

China will become the world's manufacture, but have the greatest volatility as they grow too quickly in political fits and starts.  Russia will provide grain and energy, but struggle to achieve true democracy.  India will evolve more slowly around customer service. Brazil will be the emerging star of the next decade.  Still not much hope for Africa. 06-22-10


01-01-10 - Because of last year's $150 per barrel oil, in less than five years we will be awash in energy from multiple sources such that energy will be available at the equivalent of $1.99 a gallon in today's dollars.

06-29-14 - Somewhat right.  Though about twice that, energy has remained relatively cheap and will continue that way for another six years at least.

01-12-15 - Last June's qualification was premature.  Right on schedule, Americans are paying LESS that $2 per gallon for fuel even WITHOUT inflation adjustment.  And to confirm, fuel will remain UNDER $4 per gallon for another five years.


We will have modest deflation for at least the next three years. 04-17-10

06-29-14 - RIGHT!  Four years and going strong, but has bifracated into biflation.  Basic goods and energy remain relatively cheap because of continued improvements in agriculture and manufacturing.  There is no general spiraling price increases.  But "unique" has taken on a whole new value in our culture reflected in the price of collectibles and some real estate - both have seen dramatic inflation using quantitative easing dollars of the one percent.  This trend will continue for another six years until at least 2020.


China's construction and real estate bubble will exceed the scale and impact of our own and will pop within 24 months, with dramatic effect. 04-17-10 - Wrong!  They built 38 million MORE lower cost apartments. The reckoning remains on the horizon - by 2016? 06-29-14 


06-29-14 - Deflation and low bond yields will continue to drive equities up for the longest bull market in history.