Sunday, July 27, 2008
I know that the odds of things are often different than the unschooled intuition would expect (for example, the likelihood of finding a common birthday among a group of ten surprises most people), but I wonder how our experience of "connectedness" compares with the average. Is it like this for most people and in most big cities? Or is there something about Los Angeles (or about George and me) that is distinctive? I know that with cars, the perception of size on the inside doesn't always correspond with actual size on the outside, and you can find cars that feel large inside while being actually small. I wonder if there is an analog for cities, if Los Angeles somehow feels smaller on the "inside" than it actually is on the outside? In any case, I love living here.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
From the State of California's legal point of view, we'll be getting married for the first time next month. From our point of view, next month we'll be simply renewing our vows for the benefit of the State, who wasn't able to attend our wedding seven years ago. Since then, our relationship has undergone various legal evolutions in status. When we got married in July 2001, we executed mutual healthcare directives and financial powers of attorney, which were later recorded. And we registered as LA County Domestic Partners. Most people aren't aware that both LA County and the State of California maintain domestic partner registries, which are separate and independent statuses, each with their own benefits. When we married in 2001, the state registry was mostly just symbolic, whereas the county registry had a few actual benefits associated with it (e.g., hospital visitation rights). In 2003, the state registry made a major advance from symbolic to substantial, and so on Valentine's Day 2003, we became registered domestic partners with the state. In 2005, the state domestic partner status was made to be substantially equivalent to marriage (including responsibility for one another's debts, required court dissolution, etc), and there was a grace period when those who had registered under the previous definition could "opt out" of the new definition. So we have a number of dates on which our relationship marked an "upgrade" in legal status, and we will have one more next month, but we will always celebrate our anniversary as the day seven years ago today when we stood before God, family and friends, and exchanged mutual vows of lifelong loving commitment.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Last weekend, I got into a debate with my brother about whether the oil companies' profits were excessive. He argued that Exxon's profits were $40B last year, and that their profits had increased twentyfold in five years, while the price of gas had only doubled. I didn't think that was true, and thought that their profits had only increased in proportion to their revenues, that their margin was fairly constant (and not particularly egregious), and that they were only setting record total profits because their revenues were huge and the price had risen. So I decided to take a look at Exxon's annual reports, and though I'm not sure I fully understand all of the trends, I was pretty close to right, I'd say. As I suspected, Exxon's profits in the last five years have been fairly steady around 10%, as gas prices doubled (from $1.50/gal in 2003 to $3.00 in 2007) and crude oil prices more than doubled (from $28/barrel in 2003 to $64 in 2007). In 2006, Exxon derived about 2/3 of their profits from their "upstream" business (oil production) versus their "downstream" business (refineries and gas stations). Their volume of oil produced has been fairly steady around 2.5 million barrels/day since 1999, though there was a slight (4%) increase between 2005 and 2006. There has been some small growth in margin, which is to say profits growing slightly faster than revenues. I didn't look into why, which would take more time to get to the bottom of. (One thing I did note was that capital expenditures, which includes exploration costs, have not kept pace with revenues. Not sure if that means increased efficiency, or just downscaled investment in the future. Intuitively, I'd expect a time lag of some years between capital investment and its resulting revenue in this industry, and I'd also expect that new barrels of oil are generally more costly to obtain than in the past.) Anyway, here is data that I mined from Exxon annual reports, plus a couple industry sources for background history on crude and pump prices.
|Year||Revenue||Profit||Profit margin||Cap Costs||Cap/Rev||Mbarrels/day||$/barrel||$/gallon|
Thus, of the three factors that account for a record profit -- volume, price, and margin -- it is price that accounts for the lion's share. (And if you want to understand why prices are so high, Jim Manzi recently provided an excellent synopsis -- look to supply-and-demand, inflation, already-high efficiency, and uncertainty compounded by speculation.) Bottom line: while 10% is certainly a nice profit to be making these days, it's not extraordinary or usurous in my opinion, and not what I would call a "windfall".
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Friday, July 04, 2008
And, and by the way, if anyone wants to know what a real American patriot looks like, they should check out this video of Barack Hussein Obama's speech given in Independence, Missouri, a few days ago in anticipation of Independence Day.
Barack Obama: Speech on Patriotism.
June 30, 2008. Independence, MO. (Full text here.)