Hunga Tonga erupts
Were civilian authorities capable of responding to a once-in-a-decade global eruption? So far, it appears they were capable.
The lead story: a volcano explodes in Tonga, the largest in 30 years. While most educated Americans have heard of Tonga, only those with some special interest could point it out on a map. And the BBC reports a demographic fact about the country I did not know.
Did Tonga (and the world) pass the test of survival? But first, the rest of the week’s news.
Branding and Identity Management: Last week, I experimented with some Twitter advertising. For a few bucks, I got about 15 likeson my Twitter post … but only 5 clickthroughs to the Substack.
This demonstrated two of the problems of Twitter.
The key metric is “gain followers”, and that means different things to people and to brands. My solution is fairly clear - a new Twitter account for the brand, and my personal Twitter account set to private. I have reached the age where I know enough people on the internet already, but the blog always welcomes new readers.
Twitter advertising would be much more valuable if those “likes” turned into subscriptions, or at least readers of the blog. Hopefully ads targeting “people who previously liked my posts” can work here. Having two accounts helps here as well — I don’t want to target people I know with ads, and people may be more likely to follow a brand account.
Along with https://twitter.com/YevaudNewslettr, a new URL here: https://newslettr.yevaud.com/ . (The blog lost an “E” to the tyranny of Twitter username character limits). http://yevaud.com/ currently redirects here as well, but perhaps only for now. http://yevaud.substack.com/ should redirect indefinitely.
Vitavegemin: In November, Astral Codex Ten had a blog post about vitamins and ivermectin. Regarding vitamins, he says “I know of only one person who takes the Pascalian argument completely seriously. Futurist Ray Kurzweil used to take 250 different supplements every day - but after realizing this was excessive, cut it down to only 100.” Even 100 is excessive - I doubt there is an argument for 20.
I do find the argument for 5-10 pills per day compelling. I am planning to start with 4: a standard multivitamin, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, and glucosamine. There are a lot of claims about C and D3, and a lot of those claims are quackery. But there’s plausibly something enough there after the ducks are cleared out. Glucosamine - bad joints runin my family, and it might help.
Supply Chain Woes: When I went to use Stripe Atlas this week, I came across a strange message. (If any of you get a weird billing message from Substack, blame that.) Apparently “supply chain issues” were now impacting one of the nation’s most valuable exports: Delaware Corporations. Fortunately, top men were on the case and the process did start moving again.
Tweet of the Week: You can request a free COVID test in the mail now. But you have to ask first. Probably a good system, hopefully a somewhat permanent system. The mythical “people outside the system who can’t fill out a web application” probably have bigger concerns than COVID.
Hunga Tonga Erupts
The fog of war was literal this week, as all communications with the islands of Tonga were cut off following a volcanic explosion. Submarine cables were broken by the shockwaves and tsunami, and a giant cloud of ash disrupted satellite links. For at least a day, nobody could give detail on the strength of the eruption beyond “not as large as Tambora 1815” and “larger than anything since Pinatubo 1991”. The Speaker of Parliament, Lord Fakafanua, put out a statementon Monday which did not make clear whether he was actually in Tonga or in contact with anyone on the ground there.
By Tuesday, the fog had started to clear. It was clear there still was a Tonga, and that civilian authorities continued to function on most of the islands. The largest island, Tongatapu (70% of population, 40 miles south of the blast), had functioning on-island phone service. Smaller islands impacted by the tsunami have been reached by boat, and are being evacuated to shelters on the main islands.
Tonga’s Olympic athlete, who was training off-island, shared aerial imagery on Twitter.
The immediate concern is potable water. Between the tsunami and ashfall, most sources of drinking water may be contaminated. The islands should have at least a one-week supply of bottled water on hand as a contingency for this exact issue. Reporting from the BBC on Wednesday suggests this concern has been addressed, and ships will be arriving on Friday.
The Shape of Insurance
These are the questions that drive ren mad.
The casualty figures appear low enough to allow us a moment of levity. Did the magical spell I cast Saturday night cause the volcanic explosion?
The correct answer to that is “of course not, the volcano caused you to cast the spell on Saturday night”. However, I would hesitate to put this theory to a jury.
To increase our defenses going forward, Yevaud Newslettr is now owned by Yevaud Platforms LLC, a Delaware Corporation since a timestamp of “EIGHTEENTH DAY OF JANUARY, A.D. 2022, AT 10:52 O`CLOCK A.M”. If a court is accusing me of illegally practicing magic, I doubt that an LLC will protect me. But it can’t hurt.
Regardless, the potential risks may make magical discussions formally uninsurable. I may have to replace that section of the Newslettr with content related to a safer topic, like chess.
On a more serious note.
When buying insurance, you must always consider the risk your counter-party will not be able to cover the risk. Is a mere insurance agent able to stop a volcano from erupting? No — they can only write you a check after the damage is done.
That question of insurance arises with the situation the country of Tonga finds itself in. There are two types of insurance. Tonga could have been paying Berkshire Hathaway$100 million per year for volcano insurance, and received a $5 billion check yesterday to help with re-building. Tonga could also have invested in infrastructure to ensure that people don’t die of dehydration or exposure before the money (and the physical goods) actually arrive.
This is the proofof that infrastructure. So far, it looks like a passing grade.
As far as volcano insurance, they have chosen a more indirect approach. Tonga votes with the Western bloc at the United Nations, and in lieu of uncouth annual paymentsreceives indirect compensation through insurance for situations like this. Certainly Australia, New Zealand, and the United States will provide all reasonable aid and assistance — if for no other reason than to deny China the opportunity to do so.
I’m not sure whether “maybe everybody should work Sundays” is the best take for an advertising test.
The ivermectin argument is dormant. I still maintain the published (non-fake) studies showed it is more effective than a placebo, but far less effective than paxlovid and molnupiravir.
Well, actually, because of the bad joints there isn’t very much running going on …
It is important to note that the “Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga” account is not verified by Twitter. Regardless, I know the statement to be accurate based on other reporting.
He later appeared from a TV studio in Auckland — apparently he was not in Tonga.
I’m not sure there is an extent definition for formally uninsurable. Very roughly, it assumes a St. Petersburg distribution of the costs.
There may be other non-government entities capable of making such an insurance contract, but I’m not sure.
I am not licensed to sell insurance, but suggesting a premium of 2%/year seems safe for this risk. The question is not if a volcano will erupt in the area, but when. I don’t know if it’s every 50 years or every 250 years, so I would charge the higher price.
In this type of scenario, it is always important to remember you can’t eat money. This is doubly true when you are on an isolated island and the money is stored electronically in New York or London.
as in “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”.