Whither Bacon?

Bacon Shortage? see Grist.com…from 2013

Coffee, then gas, paint, cars, toilet paper, artificial sweetener–my Diet Vanilla Coke!! my Starbuck’s Lite Bottled Frappaccinos, my Diet Mountain Dewwwwwwww— and, now, BACON?!?!?

Have we reached the end of civilization? Will this bacon shortage finally break our collective will?

I have news for all of us. While the pandemic has created and intensified shortages–supply and demand fluctuations–in some of our favorite products, a good chunk of the news around the Current Bacon Terror is manufactured. How do I know? Because we’ve been here before. Price spikes and shortages aren’t always related to the actual resource in demand.

Britain’s Gas Crisis, Explained! shouts The New York Times

However Will I Drive to the Grand Canyon?

Chances are, you’ve seen or heard about gas lines at some point in your lifetime. The first one I recall was way back in 1973, and, ever since then, gas shortages crop up with regularity in some part of the world, such as when hurricanes are forecast. This, despite gasoline consumption per person being down some 20-40% since the 1980s. We use less gas; gas costs more; temporary shortages cost spikes.

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Z is for Zero

The Hindu concept of zero, the void, the circle. Graphic from pparihar.com.

A circle is an infinite number of points all equally distant from a single center. That definition came from Euclid, a Greek, although the Greek’s didn’t use zero. Aristotle was afraid to divide by the void because it wasn’t descriptive of the real world.

The Chinese and the Sumerians used placeholders in their counting, adopting different marks for the tens and the 60s digit, since Babylonians used base 60. But they didn’t have a zero.

The Mayans had a zero–they used base 20–which allowed them to produce large astronomical calculations that generated accurate solar and lunar calendars using only sticks. But their isolation prevented trade, which limited their civilization.

The Romans had zero, of course! Nulla. The Romans had sophisticated plumbing and developed roads that lasted for millenia. But Romans disdained to use nulla in their numbering systems, so even though their business records were hierarchical and detailed, they were limited. Growth is limited if a number like 397,654 is CCCXCVMMDCLIV.

The Arabs developed zero; they developed algebra. But the Arabs learned it from the Hindus.

Graphic from Pparihar.com.
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Y is for Yield Curve

The Yield Curve is a simple idea with surprising predictive power. The Yield Curve is a magic eight ball, which tells the interpreter what they want to hear. The Curve is a bunch of numbers. The Curve tells you everything that happened, but only in retrospect.

All of the above.

Basic yield curve shapes, colotrust.com.

People really wax poetic about the yield curve. There’s one guy at NPR that goes ga-ga over the yield curve and has done podcasts on it with clock-like regularity:

GARCIA: …I got to say, it is one of my favorite indicators.
SMITH: Cardiff, you love the yield curve.
GARCIA: Very much.
SMITH: Every time we talk about the yield curve, you kind of light up. And I have no idea why this is the case.

NPR podcast, Apr 6, 2021.
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