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Friday, June 30, 2006

Kos says bike racing favorite sport

Therefore we must obey and consent to the fact that we like bicycle racing the bestest. Because Kos says so.

Alas, sad that so many Tour de France riders recently got disqualified in numbers worse than the previous doping episode in 1998. I realize that dopants and steroids can do a number on your system, but I have a weirdly unconventional take on the issue. As I remarked last year during Lance's last le Tour, what would happen if we indeed created a safe drug that made us all into super-commuters -- bicycle riders that wouldn't get tired and recovered quickly after long trips to the work place and back.

In the end, Kos says that the Tour racers shouldn't break the rules. I respectfully disagree and would recommend that the race revoke all rules, save for pedal power. Tradition doesn't automatically survive paradigm shifts. If the racers want to act as guinea pigs, let them have at it. It would amount to a hedge bet for potential medical advances in the future. As it stands, the rapid descents on the Tour hills approach death-defying levels that I would never engage in. May the best technology win.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Poseur Alert

I think I spotted a poseur jumping on the energy infohighway. This site EnergyDigger.com reeks of snake oil.

This testimonial I found pretty funny actually:
"Every morning after my bath, I sit in front of the computer with my toys and look at ENERGYDIGGER. The name is so erotic. I don't know what it means but it makes me feel smart and sexy. It looks pretty."
Candie Plastique, stripper (Atlanta, Georgia)
I got tipped off originally by one of the apparent proprietors of the site who tried to hijack the long-running Michael Lynch thread at the PeakOil.com message board.
thanks - I hope some people join it and make a little discussion there - it is a new site and there are only a handfull of people there - there may not be any great discussions there for a while till people get to know where the site is... thanks for joining - get the ball to rolling by placing a few comments out on the boards and maybe some people will chime in on the forums at EnergyDigger.com ... the main thrust of the site was to generate the best oil and gas news from around the world - I wrote the aolgorithms1 to scour the globe of hundreds of newspapers to gather the most relevant news in the energy industry - it is working quite wll actually.
I have no problems spotting a fake polyglot. Elsewhere the guy claims years of experience as a drilling supervisor. No way does this dude come up with any "algorithms" when you just need to configure a freeware news aggregator; especially when you claim to have spent most of your professional life working at oil drilling sites.

Sorry, but us oil depletionists and energy worry-warts happen to have spines made of primarily cynical materials.

Update: Another quote from the EnergyDigger:
The fact the Dick Cheney ran Halliburton doesn't make him a bad guy, it makes him experienced and provides a grounded base of understanding of the problems we are facing. I have met him personally and worked for him as well - he is a level headed and competant person whom I would say understands the situation very well.
He met Cheney and lived to tell about it. Quite an achievement. I have always wondered how a politician's approval rating can go up after shooting a man at close range in the face. But then again, when you have that low an approval rating (15%-20%), and shooting a man gets a rise out of the manly 25% of the population, you can see why it turned out as a good political move.

Update 2: A Commenter said "Maybe not, but the shareholders during Cheney's reign as CEO have recently revived a class action suit alleging fraudulent behaviour under Cheney. The lead lawyer is just finishing a long on-going case which has prevented him from focusing on Cheney. Don't have the link but it will be in the press very soon."

For the cynical among us, that testimonial should really give us grounds for dismissing everything EnergyDigger says. Are Cheney and BushCo really "good guys" in our nation's path forward?

If EnergyDigger really knew Cheney and claims to have worked for him, he should start spilling all the beans he can on Cheney, like what lies within the "Secret Energy Plan" that Cheney worked on with executives from Enron and elsewhere. Now that would serve as a good web site starter theme -- much, much better than creating some rinky-dink news aggregator that no one in their right mind should be impressed with.
I taught engineering level programming at a major university in the 80's and your foolish comments should not go unchallenged - this is custom coded algorythems that collect, score and distinguish between different stories across many news XML services around the globe - it even deletes duplicate news storys about the same topic that ultimately appear in different news feeds daily so there are never 2 stories on the same issue - the fuzzy logic algorythems2 are not unlike the search engines news services that throw out duplicate stories that appear on the same story in different news feeds...totally automated.
GIGO : Garbage In leads to Garbage Out

1"aolgorithms" -- The marketing idea behind CD's that get delivered weekly to your mailbox, offering up subscription to a dying email service.
2"algorythems" -- The reason that our former Vice President seemed so wooden. He lacked this vital soulful trait.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Steam Cars!

Second banana Jim Earl from the Marc Maron Show has an on-going infatuation with steam-powered cars. At first I didn't buy his enthusiasm, but from Bouphonia, news that novel potentially steam-friendly designs have started to surface, including the Quasiturbine, the StarRotor, and the RandCam. Similar to the traditional Wankel rotary engine, these will in all likelihood suffer from rotor seal problems until "they" get the kinks worked out.

On the plus side, rotors generate little vibration and can operate under lower pressure, making for a smooth ride. Thanks also Phila, for unearthing this timeless gem from Bruce McCall:

Monday, June 26, 2006

Simmons Talking Points

Extracted from a recent Mathew Simmons PDF presentation.

"The Energy Crisis Has Arrived"
Energy Conversation Series
Department of Defense
Alexandria, VA
June 20, 2006 By Matthew R. Simmons

Modern Energy: Elixir Of Life
  • Oil is "transportation" energy.
  • Oil’s liquids make all kinds of things.
  • Natural gas creates instant heat.
  • NGLs create things, too (fertilizers and petrochemicals).
  • Coal, nuclear, hydro, wind and solar all create "light".
  • Without these energy sources, we lose a lot.
  • Any energy shortage morphs rapidly into PANIC!

    More Products Made From Oil…
    Adhesives, air-conditioners, ammonia, anti-histamines, antiseptics, artificial turn, asphalt, Asprin, balloons, bandages, boats, bottles, bras, bubblegum, butane, cameras, candles, car batteries, car bodies, carpet, cassette tapes, caulking, CDs, chewing gum, combs/brushes, computers, contact lenses, cortizone, crayons, cream denture adhesives, deodorant, detergents, dice dishwashing liquid, dryers, electric blankets, electrician’s tape, non-natural fabrics, fertilizers, fishing lures, fishing rods, floor wax, footballs, glycerin, golf balls, guitar strings, hair coloring, hearing aids, heart valves, heating oil, house paint, ice chests, ink, insect repellent, insulation, jet fuel, life jackets, linoleum, lip balm, lipstick, loudspeakers, mascara, medicines, mops, motor oil, motorcycle helmets, movie film, nail polish, oil filters, paddles, paint brushes, paints, parachutes, paraffin, pens, perfumes, petroleum jelly, plastic furniture, plastic wrap, plastics, refrigerators, roller-skate wheels, roofing paper, rubber bands, rubber boots, rubber cement, running shoes, saccharine, seals, shoe polish, shoes, shower curtains, solvents, spectacles, stereos, sweaters, table tennis balls, tape recorders, telephones, tennis rackets, thermos, tires, TV cabinets, computer ribbons, umbrellas, upholstery, vaporizers, vitamin capsules, volley balls, water pipes, water skis, wax, wax paper, etc. etc.

    Defining Some Key Words
  • Mistakes occur when "two ships pass in the night."
  • "Terms" means different things to different people.
  • Some important terms for tonight’s talk:
    – Satire
    – Gurus
    – Fools
    – Paradise
    – Beliefs
    – Theories
    – Facts
    – Proof
    – Crisis

    THE GREAT ENERGY CRISIS (2006 – 20??)
  • How this one crept up
  • What everyone missed
  • Gravity of crisis
  • How we conquer it
  • Lessons learned
    The History of Crisis

    History Is Wrought With Tragedy And Crises
  • "Hi-story" records grim tales of crises.
  • Most were unnecessary (sadly).
  • Armies only march (vs. train) to overcome crises.
  • Modern history saw escalating series of crises:
    – Old crises were mostly local
    – Modern crises became global pandemics

    Value of Historical Analysis
  • History always puts current problems into context.
  • Historical events rarely re-occur.
  • Mistakes leading to crises are often repeated.
  • Best plans usually anchored on rigid historical analysis.
  • History of crisis is "Classical Study" at its best.

    We Faced Many Crises
    Division of tax fairness
  • The Boston Tea Party
  • The American Revolution
  • Ignoring Slavery
  • The Missouri Compromise:
  • The Great Civil War(Aftermath: A nation almost destroyed - 600,000 - DEAD)

    The vanity of the "Royal Cousins"
  • A Duke’s death:
  • The Great War (Aftermath: 20 to 40 million of "the finest we had" – DEAD)

    Great War Recess Morphed Into Tragedy
    We failed to settle the Great War
  • Germany’s famine
  • The Nazi march
  • Peace in our time (18 months)…Then came war:
    September 2, 1939: Insanity in Europe explodes into WWII.
    December 7, 1941: US Navy sinks – America’s fortress crumbles.
    May 1945: Europe/UK are gone, but VE Day is here.
    August 1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki are gone, but war ends.

    Crises Are Also Not Inevitable
    1stQ 1946: General George Marshall traverses Europe, spending six weeks with "Uncle Joe". He panics… "We will soon be back at war." "America must go back to Europe or the Depression will return." (Marshall Plan announced at Harvard)
    Result: The Four Wise men were wise!
    June 1946:
  • 2,500 Marshall Planners planned.
    1947 – 1951:
  • By Korean Crisis, rebuilding Europe was almost complete.
  • Genuine Peace In Our Time Worked

    Another Crisis Avoided Story…
    The "Cold War" Kept The Heat Of War Away

    1947: Iron Curtain created "Cold War."
    1948–1988: Explosion of armies, spies, planning and technology. Despite many "near misses" the Cold War worked.
    1989: The Wall collapsed. The Russian illusion evaporated. Billions of wisely spent dollars saved millions of lives

    The Art Of Crying Wolf: A Time Honored Gift or Mistake?
  • "The bombs never fell" (50 years defense spending - wasted).
  • Polio did not kill everyone (inoculations - wasted).
  • Sputnik was tiny piece of space (all the unneeded engineers and scientists – wasted).
  • We easily landed on the moon (the space race – wasted).
  • Y2K did not shut us down (approx. $50 Billion – wasted).
  • Maybe climate change won’t materialize (too early to tell).
  • Bird "Flu pandemic might not spread (too early to tell).
    The optimists like to say "They are just crying wolf!"

    The Energy Crisis Could Have Been Prevented
  • We were amply warned:
    – Hubbert’s cry (1949)
    – Club of Rome (1972)
    – Aramco’s Whistle Blower (1974)
    – The NYT "leaks" (1978-79)

    Facts always become crystal clear…after the fact
  • This, too, was a crisis we could have solved.
  • Planning for post-Peak Oil should have begun in 1970s.
  • It would take three decades for a "safe transition."

    Tragedies Often Leave A Trail Of Tears (Or, The Riddle Of Lost Opportunities)
  • "How easy it would have been to never pick up a single gun…" Winston Churchill in Missouri 1947 (aka "His Iron Curtain Speech").
  • "Remember the chorus of street criers who cried?"
    Dr. Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere, Dr. Fatih Birol, Dr. Kjell Aleklett, Honorable Randy Udall, Dr. Herman Franssen, Dr. Edward Morse, Dr. Robert Hirsch.
    How could so many energy medics’ voices have not been heard? (Answer: The laughter drowned their cries.)

    What The Optimists Missed
  • Awful energy data.
  • No proof of "proven reserves."
  • OPEC’s proven reserve game (1980s).
  • Decades of lower exploration success.
  • No proof that reserves still grow.
  • Acceleration of decline curves.
  • Limits of oilfield technology.
  • Etc., Etc., Etc.

    Why We Slept
  • Aramco and others believed Middle East oil was "boundless."
  • Economists believed oil prices would steadily fall:
    – "$1.25 oil is too expensive." M. Adelman (Dec. 1969)
    – "Cost to extract all natural resources falls over time." J. Simon (1980)
    – "Drowning in Oil – Oil prices are falling to $5 for a decade" The Economist. (March 1999)
    – Energy Crisis? Phooey! – Yergin, Tillerson, Browne (2006)

    Current Scoffer Statements
  • "No one wants our oil – even our light oil." (Saudi Arabian Petroleum Minister, June 2006).
  • "While current prices will stay high, oil will then fall to $40 before falling lower." (Lord Browne of Mattingly (BP), June 2006).
  • "The world has 10 trillion barrels of oil left." (Rex Tillerson (ExxonMobil) on Today Show, May 2006).

    We Had No Fuel Tank
  • Can’t run out of gas when fuel gauge is "empty."
  • World never invented a real fuelgauge for: – A town, city or region
  • We created rough estimates of OECD "stocks."
  • We used the Energy Information Agency (EIA) weekly stock report as a proxy for a gauge.

    "Reported Stocks" Are Merely Samples Of "Primary Stocks"
  • Reported "stocks" are samples of "Primary Stocks."
  • Primary stock is storage exceeding 50,000 barrels.
  • Rest of stocks (secondary, tertiary) are probably greater amount.
  • Estimates are "educated guesses of samples."
  • Total petroleum stocks include:
    – Crude in system (pipelines, tankers and tank farms)
    – Refined products work in process
    – Finished stock

    The War Of "Weekly Reports"
  • American Petroleum Institute (API) issued their reports first (until 2003).
  • No enforcement of EIA’s sampler reports.
  • Few historical revision adjustments were seen.
  • No evidence on physical testing ever performed.
  • Traders jump on EIA/API numbers like bookies at track.

    Other Data/Red Lights Missed (Whilst We Slept)
  • Dwindling rigs.
  • Aging workforces.
  • Rusting iron.
  • Aging refineries.
  • Evaporating cushion.
  • Accelerating decline curves.
  • End of technology – work all done.
  • Low prices dissipated a once robust industry.
    A happy ending was not in the cards

    "We Woz Wrong" – The Economist
  • While powerful voices of optimism boom, facts are pouring in too fast.
    Fact: Out of capacity for:
    - Oil and gas supply cushion
    - Oil and gas supply growth
    - No spare drilling rigs
    - No spare refining capacity
    - Shrinking pool of skilled workers
    - No access to anything good
    Fact: Demand still raging ahead

    Demand Can Be "Anything"
    Use = Supply
  • "Any person has a right to hope," even demand.
  • "Hope springs eternal." – Alexander Pope, 1733.
    Energy Physics 101 (EP101)
    Energy Use = Energy Supply
    Caveat to EP101:
    "Energy cushion" can bridge a small gap

    The Formula For An Energy Crisis
    Step 1: Soaring demand.
    Step 2: Use up all spare cushion.
    Step 3: Run out of rigs, people and projects.
    Step 4: Shrink supply.

    One Of Charles Dickens’ Great Satires
    Is this the future or our future unless we mend our wrongful ways?
    The Ghost of the Future

    Have We Run Out Of Time To "Mend"?
  • Had we awakened in 1974, we never would have spent three more decades believing oil would always remain cheap because of the Middle East.
  • Had we taken Sy Hersh seriously in 1978/79: He told us Saudi Oil was a fable but we thought he was just trying to scare us.
  • Had we not destroyed our energy army, the saga of the 25 year oil depression, we would still be strong.
  • "If wishes were horses…"

    Middle East Oil Will Not Bail Us Out
  • Boundless Middle East Oil was a myth.
  • 35 – 40 giant fields were found (1927 – 1972).
  • All are now "very mature" and involve complicated production:
    – Rising water cuts
    – Steadily tight rocks
    – Heavier and more sour crude
    – Rising corrosion problems
  • Abundant natural gas was even more mythical.
  • Post 1972, exploration found nothing significant.

    Even Saudi Arabia’s Great Oil Resources Are Scarce
  • Seven key fields produce 90%+ of Saudi Arabia’s oil.
  • Average "life" of this produced oil is 45 to 50 years.
  • The sweet spots of these fields are almost depleted.
    Field 1994 Production (B/D)
    Ghawar 5,000,000
    Safaniya 960,000
    Abqaiq 650,000
    Berri 400,000
    Zuluf 500,000
    Marjan 400,000
    Abu Sa’fah 150,000*
    Total 8,060,000

    Nobody Saves The Best For Last
    ‘Ain Dar/Shedgum = 2 million barrels per day.

    All Giant Saudi Oil fields Are "Mature"
  • Abqaiq’s key producing areas are now "pockets" of by-passed oil.
  • Berri appears headed for a "gas blow down."
  • Safaniya/Zuluf/Marjan are losing their great water aquifer and are all old, too.
  • Shaybah is a very complex to produce reservoir.
  • Far smaller Hawtah Trend was contaminated by
    injected water.

    Are There Vast Areas Yet To Be Explored?
  • Saudi Aramco has employed state-of-the-art geophysical tools to find new oil sources.
  • So far, the only commercial success was in Hawtah Trend (200,000 barrels per day of extra light oil).
  • The remaining unexplored areas:
    – Iraq’s southern border
    – Deepwater Red Sea
    – Bottom end of Empty Quarter

    Saudi Arabia’s Real Oil Future?
  • Various old field rehabilitation projects have all been put on a fast track.
  • Rig activity has tripled in 3 years.
  • Each "rehab" project is complex and faces risks.
  • "Current" decline rates approx. 8% per annum.
  • No proof that oil production has grown in past 4 years.
  • The future is "fuzzy" at best. "TRUST ME" provides no evidence or proof!

    The Middle East Will Always Have Oil
  • Middle East oil production will not rise any longer.
  • My educated hunch of future decline:
    2006 2012 2018
    Saudi Arabia 8,000 5,000 3,500
    Iran 3,200 2,200 1,500
    Iraq 1,800 1,200 800
    Kuwait 2,200 1,600 1,200
    UAE 2,200 2,100 2,000
    Oman 800 500 300
    TOTAL 18,200 12,600 9,300
    Crude Oil Only

    How Will We Know When Peaking Was Real?
  • You only really know after the fact.
  • There is no crystal ball or "omen in the sky."
  • Facts only lead to a solid hunch.
  • Hunches, backed by genuine, solid data which are integrated into "intelligence," transform real wars into phony wars.

    Do We Have Any Time Left?
  • Not enough to stave off peak energy use crisis. The crisis has arrived.
  • If we "wait it out" difficult to stay alive without ample energy.
  • What if we simply "go to war?"
    – With what source of energy?
    – Do we even know the enemy?
    – A war without a plan is almost certainly "a lost war."

    Does It Make Sense To "Call To Arms"
  • "Will a bugle call make a difference?" Not sounding the alarm, lets the fools still dream and not realize the coming pain.
  • Starting yesterday made far better sense.
  • Better to start late than not start at all is a truism.
  • "Without ample energy, you cannot invent enough Generals." (Four star General Richard Lawson in Beijing, February 2003)
  • "Without bridges to prosperity, we might as well go home and get into our uniforms!" Brigadier General George Y.B. Yeo, Harvard Business School Alumni Association. April 1997.

    An Outline Of A Real War Plan, "How to Survive The Energy War"
  • Plan, plan, plan and fight next.
  • Get real energy data even if it takes spies and armed forces to steal the data.
  • Panics create instant "call to arms."
  • If we wait a day longer, we risk losing everything we cherish by DEFAULT and then the global lights dim…twilight turns into era of darkness.

    A Truth: Addictions Are Hard To Kick
  • Kicking the oil habit means using less transportation energy.
  • Solution is simple but complex to "integrate into a forced march out of harms way."
  • Stopping "natural gas addiction" has no working plan.
  • Natural gas is our only efficient source of instant heat.
  • Natural gas is only way to quickly cool.
  • Too much heat kills slowly.
  • Too little heat kills elderly in 30 minutes or less.
  • High percentage of globe lives outside "moderate zone."

    The "Play" Is Over… The Lights Go On!
  • Tonight’s energy discussion had no intended humor or happy ending.
  • I used war terms to connote how real the energy war is. The attack was silent, but it happened nevertheless.
  • Our military can either fight the last military fight (and probably lose) or:
    – Use its honest force to plan, organize and fight to win the energy war
    – The lights are now on… but not for very long

    Why Do I Fear The Peak Is Here?
  • No "verifiable proof" until data reform happens.
  • Wide body of strong circumstantial proof does exist:
    – Slowing of new discoveries all getting smaller
    – Most key regions are now in decline
    – Most new projects are heavy oil, deepwater and/or unconventional gas
    – Supply for non-OPEC/non-FSU has been flat or declining for 6 years
    – Demand continues to grow
    – Industry is now out of spare rigs, refineries and people

    When Twilight Sets On Middle East
  • Twilight (peaking of Middle East oil) marks twilight for the world!
  • No region in the world is ever likely to replace this gap.
  • Finding several North Sea replicas will take decades.
  • By 2020, the current 80+ mb/d base could be reduced to 25 mb/d.*
    *Schlumberger’s 8% per annum estimated global decline s 8% per annum estimated global decline

    A Clash of Ages Is Just Ahead
  • Demand for energy gathering steam:
    – Growth in use outside OECD has just begun
    – OECD use still growing every year
  • Supply got too old:
    – Decline curves are high now
    – They will accelerate
    – Too many regions now producing "brine stained with oil"

    Is It Really "Too Late?" (Or Was All This A Bad Dream?)
  • The world is probably beyond peak oil and gas.
  • If we are still close, turn around and retreat.
  • Finding new oil and gas takes decades.
  • Building a new energy army of rigs, boats, pipes, tankers, refineries, wireline trucks, seismic fleets, geo steered drilling units, etc., take decades.
  • Meanwhile, the Rust Belt needs to be rebuilt.
  • There is no army of trained personnel or teachers or recruiters of energy students.

    "The Next War" Will Be The "Last War"
  • "We" now are all addicted to oil and desperate for a fix of gas when it gets either too cold or too hot.
  • "We" used to be the U.S.A.
  • "We" now encompass everybody (6.5 billion everybody) other than tribes in the Amazon or mountains of Papua New Guinea).
  • The Big Junkies: OECD = 50 million barrels per day or 23 barrels per person per year.
  • The beginners who sample: Rest of world (5.5 billion bodies) = 35 million barrels per day or 2.3 barrels per person per year.

    Houston, We Have A Big Problem
  • The earth’s energy has peaked and its use will start to disappear.
  • It will never "be gone" but will soon be "far less than needed."
  • "No one saw this coming!" (at least almost no one)
  • Better get the armies built up.
  • This war must be won.

    Energy’s Twilight Era
  • Tonight we had an honest talk about a very real problem: The twilight of fossil fuel.
  • We all share the unforeseen consequences of problems too long ignored.
  • It is past time for debate, the crisis is here.
  • The time to educate, plan, form an energy army and march is NOW!!

  • Friday, June 23, 2006

    Interesting listen

    A couple of times a year, Mike Malloy of Air America Radio devotes 3 hours to accepting phone-calls only from young people, with the kids ranging from 13 to 17 years old. Out of the 20 or so that called in tonight, the kids' biggest issue revealed a concern over global warming. One kid also made the connection between Iraq and oil. Listening to these broadcasts always gives one hope for an optimistic future.

    (I can always find the AAR broadcasts via a BitTorrent stream at a place like isohunt.com; especially if you don't want to pay for the podcast from the premium site.)

    I remember my dad telling me of a graph that one of his co-workers had presented in front of a technical audience. It evidently showed perfect correlation and followed an absolutely straight line. Then my dad spoke up and pointed out that the guy had actually plotted X versus X. As I recall, my dad relished in the fact that everyone in the audience laughed at his oneupsmanship.

    In a nutshell, this illustrates what BushCo does -- they plot X vs. X, tell everyone that everything has and will work out perfectly and all the gullible 'minionists snarf it up. Too bad for the right-wing that a lot of the kids still listen to their parents as well as discussers of reality, and so will hopefully prevent a complete dismantling of our environmental progress to date.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    Due to waxy buildup?

    Stuart at TOD posted an incredible plot concerning recent energy projections from the U.S.A.'s Energy Information Association (EIA). Prompted by a commenter who pointed out that the largely linearly extrapolated expected growth in oil production assumed increases from a majority of the oil producing countries, Stuart quickly plotted this curve for US production based on the EIA data:

    Notice that the EIA thinks that we will reverse the downward trend of oil depletion, and start picking up production, significantly. Significant to the point that we will regroup to 1987 levels within the next 15 years!

    If true this will become the greatest comeback since Richard Nixon won the presidency, or perhaps the Resurrection of Jesus!

    Tuesday, June 20, 2006


    Phila provides an interesting link to some weird geological formations, largely caused by rapid cooling of volcanic liquids, forming columnar basalt structures. The fissures and gaps between the columns occur as the lava (or magma1) contracts.

    This drove me crazy as I tried to remember some similarly weird structures that exist somewhere on the Jamaica mainland. Although I didn't quite find the picture I had imagined once seeing, I deduced that it probably involved erosion of limestone and not volcanic activity. China (see right) remains the primo place for finding these strange formations, often referred to as karsts or lapiaz. In simple terms, years of rain and runoff on top of a soluble limestone bed cause sinkholes and scalloping which show much less regularity than the equally strange basalt columns.

    Haiti -- side of a hill

    Yugoslavia -- rolling karsts

    China -- massive straight up out of the ground

    Somewhere -- look closely at the laborer in the pic and a klapiaz

    France -- spooky

    Mexico -- boulders

    Jamaica -- cockpit country. I didn't find exactly what I imagined but this stuff in Jamaica looks fairly impenetrable: here, here, here, here

    Grand Cayman Island -- Hell with a devil

    Sinkhole.org -- a site dedicated to Florida's sink-holes

    Google lapiaz and karsts for more pictures.

    1A critical point in my early schooling involved knowing that you call it magma if it resides insides the volcano, and lava when it leaves the orifice. Like a lot of things I learned early on, such as the difference between a whole and a natural number, this fact hasn't gained me any great dividends.

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    The Village Elder Idiot

    I have a hard time finding a right-wing pundit that will say anything, positive or negative, about global oil depletion. For whatever reason, I usually get luckier stumbling across something on the radio rather than the 'minionist side of the blogosphere. So, from the poltroons from the Powerlineblog radio show, I caught wind of some seriously deluded (mis)understanding of the current Mexico oil predicament. The Elder, one of the co-hosts of the program, yesterday tried to explain why Mexico has had recent problems with respect to their oil riches. He compared Mexico to Canada and said that if Mexico followed Canada's lead and privatized their Pemex operation, like Canada does and profits with its tar sands (!), they could likely extract all the oil they want. The damn socialism has kept the oil in the ground, apparently. Ha Ha.

    I just recorded a minute of The Elder so we can identify a real doofus Minnesota accent, and realize why they don't dare write any of this tripe on their own blogs ( but realize that the radio-ready rapture of the right listens to this pablum all the time):
    Audio [MP3] -- one minute 1

    I think The Elder has gotten cross-checked a few too often times.

    1Par for the course, the podcast of the show has this extended segment edited out. Whether they thought that this tripe would get laughed off of iTunes, I don't know. Suffice to say, they have done this cowardly self-censorship before. And these guys consider themselves "new-media" journalists.

    The GOP's Satanic Request

    I learned about this official GOP image from Air America Radio's Thom Hartmann. Note the orientation of the stars. Somebody, likely a marketing guru who got paid a hefty sum for the design, decided to orient the stars upside-down! How stoopid can you get? I imagine they thought upside-down stars gave the elephant a less threatening look, as the far-right star surely represented the elephant's eye. Or perhaps, they discovered that conventionally oriented stars made the elephant look dead!

    Since it fair play to monkey with the orientation of the Stars & Stripes, at least according to the GOP rule-book, I took my shot at it. Note what happens when I flip the entire image, so that the stars become right-side up. It turns out that the GOP does not practice Satanism at all. They have all along virtually begged us to look at the real symbology behind the icon. Clearly the Grand Ol' Party supports industrialists, and localized effluviation into sparkling deep-blue water. And I always kind of wondered what the Clear Skies Initiative meant; Al Franken got it right when he thought it meant clearing the skies of birds.



    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Fighting for your BUTTER TARTS

    Perhaps not a hoax but the floating nuclear power purportedly slated for construction by Russia couldn't look more retro. From TOD:

    According to Bruce McCall, "all meat looks like South America", and so I can't but notice that these minimalist plans look much like the retro stylings of Mr. McCall, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and before that, National Lampoon.

    Phila remains a fan of the original cartoon work that I believe McCall derives much of his inspiration from.

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Wheels of progress move slowly, progressive wheels move slower

    RGR: "I don't think speed of climate change matters unless you start with the assumption that mankind can't change even faster than the climate can. And without a good/bad decision on climate change, how can you even say it matters?"
    Astute students of the human condition have observed that people of the fundamentalist and conservative position strive to adopt a black & white perspective. It doesn't really matter what issue you bring up, the missing shades of gray become apparent almost immediately. The good/right way diametrically opposes the bad/wrong way.

    In particular, any phenomena having to do with the passage of time drive reactionaries to the point of distraction. The concept of time remains the ultimate "shades of gray" example. Now occupies an infinitesimal fraction in the shades-of-gray spectrum and ultimately gets washed out by the continuous gradient between "long ago" and "far in the future". This might explain why conservatives, such as RGR, in non-religious tones, do not care in the least about climate change. In the mind of a wingnut, the infinitesimal "now" completely swamps out the rest of time, which leads to complacency, and as the thought goes, we can always outpace time.
                Now = right
    not Now = wrong
    The fact that the world got created only 6000 years ago holds no real riddle to a conservative; it didn't happen now, so who cares? The fact that global warming may accelerate faster than any past historic period doesn't matter either; to them, the future will happen sooner than the time it takes for any mitigating change to kick in. The fact that the oil age has and will last much less than 1% of recorded history does not seem to register in their minds.

    I know this argument sounds odd if you have a good appreciation of time, but just remember how everyone has had some type of mental block. This psychotropic malady just happens to afflict the 'minionists. But to place it in a progressive context, just how widespread this attitude has become remains an elusive shades-of-gray measure.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Coward on Wheels

    I occasionally reflect on G.W. Bush's one redeeming quality -- that he gets on his mountain bike and regularly takes it out for a spin. But as I continue to digest the significance of this seemingly autonomous act, I have begun to discount his motivation. First of all, you would think that Bush would, at least on occasion, take a road bike out for a ride around the block. Like me, most serious bikers keep both kinds of bikes around. But then we read about Bush's lack of motor control, leading to such incidents as crashing into a policeman on a Scottish golf link path. Which brings us to the secondary part of his motivation -- that of health and satisfying his competitive urges.

    So why no road bike for Bush? Googling "George Bush" and "road bike", I get more hits for John Kerry and his road bike than for GWB having anything to do with one. In my opinion, I think his aversion has more to do with an aversion to crowds and fear for his life. In China, for example, Bush recently had a chance to take it on the open road but diplomatically declined.
    Reminiscing nostalgically on a recent TV interview about riding his bike through Beijing's alleys 30 years ago, Bush described his experience as "fantastic."

    Bush, then 29, visited the Chinese capital in 1975 for the first time, when his father headed the US liaison office.

    However, Bush's "fantastic experience" is hard to repeat due to the traffic conditions in Beijing, Premier Wen Jiabao told the US guest at a luncheon.
    Which I take as a weak-kneed excuse for Bush declining due to chimp-like survival instincts.
    Bush today defended that secrecy, saying he is "a high-value target" for some enemies and that Iraq "is a dangerous place."
    Malloy thinks Bush's paranoia and delusions of grandeur has something to do with past cocaine ingestion. In the case of Bush's biking habits, I can put 2-and-2 together and have decided that klutz-like physical skills combined with an occupied environment can lead to some broken pottery. Given that, Bush probably won't want to trade in a mountain bike for a road bike at the risk of having to pay a huge sum to The Pottery Barn or accidentally mowing down huge numbers of innocent bystanders. Or himself getting run over by an out-of-control rickshaw.

    Bush's biking exploits essentially boil down to an issue of convenience and chaperone-enabled "safety". Keep that helmet on George, and don't let any trees sneak up behind you. I officially disenfranchise myself from applauding Bush's riding motivation. He now has no redeeming qualities in my estimation.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006


    I got a bit ruffled when Kos crowed on the radio about the YearlyKos's energy panel which, as he labeled it, didn't stoop to recommending such things as "more walking" for their Energize America plan.

    Well, I don't mind the lo-tech aspects of a solid energy plan at all. More power to more walking, I'd say. However, we still have mucho room for improvement. For example, I started thinking about all the ways a conventional bicycle can fail in some silly way. Based on my own experiences, I compiled this list, starting with the most common and working my way down.
    1. Flat tire (pinch flat, sharp object, wear)
    2. Skipping chain
    3. Chain suck
    4. Sidewall wear-out
    5. Broken spoke
    6. Locked chain link
    7. Broken chain
    8. Frozen seat post
    9. Frozen or broken brake cable
    10. Frozen or broken shifting cable
    11. Bad pedal bearing
    12. Frozen front derailleur
    13. "Sproinged" wheel
    14. Sticky brake pads (worn, scalloped, etc)
    15. Blistered tube (bad installation)
    16. Car gets in the way of bike
    17. Parked car gets in way of bike
    18. Undone handlebar tape
    My own Energize America plan resolves to eradicate these maladies one by one, thus mobilizing a robust and reliable wheeled urban force. Alas, I don't hold up much hope as the "big thinkers" continue to worry about the "big things".

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    Cycle Killer

    Musician David Byrne blogs pretty regularly and occasionally writes about his New York City bicycling exploits. If you happen to browse around his site, you will also find out that he smartly carries a folding bike around to various parts of the world and scouts out the local scenery from said bike. So far I have noticed Byrne mentioning biking in Boston, Reno, and the Philippines [search]. And he has had bikes stolen near and far.

    I have always held to the idea that nothing beats biking or walking (and getting lost) to get the feel of an area.
    Is it more interesting to look at a river than a highway? (A highway with cars passing on it, I mean.) Is a colorful paint spill on a sidewalk as beautiful as a sunset?

    People enjoy contemplating rivers. I bike along the Hudson almost every day. The constant motion always stays more or less the same. Is that what it is — a visual metaphor (as are many other things)? And is the headlong never-ending flow of water over rocks, around piers or by the shore, constantly changing and varying but structurally the same — is that some sort of metaphor for a bigger picture? Is that why we like it and find it so mesmerizing to look at? Is the water us? Is it life, flowing eternal but never the same?

    Why shouldn’t a highway be perceived more or less the same way? The never-ending flow of cars, often fairly evenly spaced, has a similar constant variation, more or less like a river, and it remains more or less one thing, like a river. Small eddies and ripples of traffic occur, sometimes a fleet of trucks appears, like a large boat or flood of debris, but most of the time the flow of traffic is constant in its variation. So aren’t they more or less the same?

    Is it a cultural prejudice? Over the millennium have we grown accustomed to gazing at rivers and viewing the works of man as impressive, but not as moving and beautiful as a river? Do we see the works of man as suspect, impure? Highways, in particular, are seen as practical devices to get us from one place to another in vehicles of one sort or another. And while some interchanges and triple-layered overpasses might be majestic and even aesthetically lovely, gazing at traffic going by an ordinary stretch is seen as the pastime of a psychopath.

    ... [continued]

    Saturday, June 10, 2006


    The blogging convention YearlyKos featured a discussion on the global energy situation; Jerome provides the PowerPoint slides here.

    Scientist PZ Myers (on the science panel at YKos) needs to get a gig writing for radio bits. He came up with a great imagined conversation between a SCIentist and LIBertarian here:
    LIB: Isn't this wonderful? I have a desire to drive, and sufficient surplus income to purchase a vehicle, and the market and technology provide me with one. Praise Jesus! Praise Adam Smith!

    SCI: Uh, yeah, OK...but you know, the way you're driving is neither safe nor economical. Could you maybe slow down a little?

    LIB: I decide what is economical; I can afford the gas. As for safety, I have insurance, and the little whatchamacallit meter in front of me goes all the way up to 140. I haven't exceeded the limit yet.

    SCI: What you can do and what is safe and reasonable to do are two different things. If you want to experience natural selection first hand, that would be OK with me, except for the fact that we're both in the same car.
    By the way, that's a lake a couple of miles ahead, and you're headed straight for it.

    LIB: Lake? We haven't encountered any lakes in our travels so far. We don't have to worry about lakes. History is our guide, and it clearly says, "no lakes".

    SCI: Well, yes, there's a lake right there in front of us. You can see it as well as I can, I hope. It's even marked right here on our map. I suggest you turn left just a little bit and steer clear of it.

    LIB: Oh, you pessimistic doomsayers. You're always gloomily predicting our demise, and you're always wrong. We hit a mud puddle a few miles back, and see? No problems.

    SCI: I'm only predicting doom if you keep driving as foolishly as you have so far. I suggest that we start on this alternate route now, so that we don't have to swerve too sharply at the last minute.

    LIB: There is no lake. I like driving fast and straight. The last thing I want to do is turn left.

    SCI: What do you mean, there is no lake? It's right there! And we are getting closer by the minute! Why are you accelerating?

    LIB: That there is a lake is only your opinion. We need to study this, and get more input.
    (LIB reaches down beneath the seat. His hand reemerges with a sock over it.)

    SOCK: No lake!

    LIB: Hmmm. We seem to have two opinions here. Since Mr Socky has taken economic considerations into account and you have not, I can judge which is the better and more informed. Sound science says there is no lake. Or if there is, we can accept the compromise solution that it will disappear before we reach it.

    SCI: We are headed for that lake at 80 miles per hour, in a car driven by a lunatic. Slow down and turn left!

    LIB: I am confident that our innovative and technologically sophisticated economy will come up with a solution before we impact any hypothetical lake. Right, Mr Socky?

    SOCK: 's alright!

    SCI: I have been telling you what the solution is for the last 3 miles. Slow down. Turn. Now. How is science going to save you if you insist on ignoring it?

    LIB: Aha! Look! There's a pier extending out into the lake! I told you that technology would be our salvation. You scientists always underestimate the power of the free market.

    SCI: Jebus. That's a rickety 40-foot wooden dock. You can't drive at 90 miles per hour onto a short pier! BRAKE! TURN!

    LIB: You are getting emotional, and can be ignored. Market forces and the science and engineering sector will respond to our needs by assembling a floating bridge before we hit the end. Or perhaps they will redesign our car to fly. Or dispatch a ferry or submarine to our location. We cannot predict the specific solution, but we can trust that one will emerge.
    I've always wanted a flying car.

    SCI: Gobdamn, but you are such a moron.

    (car tires begin rapid thumpety-thump as they go over planks)

    LIB: I love you, Mr Socky.

    SOCK: Ditto!
    Replace {lake} with {global warming|peak oil|etc} and this works for just about any flaming cornucopian idea.

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Die for Oil, Sucker

    I happened across this circa 1991 recording of the Jello Biafra poem Dial for Oil, Sucker. Anybody that can extemporaneously recite 4 hours worth of current events spoken word will eventually hit on the connection between Middle East politics and oil. Hat tip to The Marc Maron Show.

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Chaos and fractals and nonsense

    Many people only know about chaos through the saying "a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a storm half-way around the world". Well, two brewing current events have got me thinking about placing this saying in a proper context. First, I can imagine an even smaller effect than a butterfly's wings creating just as significant a chaotic perturbation. Consider a single deadly virus finding a human host in China and spreading rapidly through the world. Though not strictly chaotic, the role of positive feedback acts to push this forward much like a hurricane gains strength by feeding itself. Secondly, consider the Chinese machine of industry on its relentless march forward, soon to exert a huge extractive influence on the world's oil supplies. Kind of an iron butterfly that one, and an army at that. Like, in a gadda da vida, man.

    The visionary sister to chaos's sound and fury, fractals occupy an orthogonal space. Khebab at Graphoilogy has resurrected Laherrere's parabolic fractal ideas to estimating URR. I have often run across Laherrere's original paper, but looked at the amount of data you would need to give it justice and left it alone. I find it encouraging that Khebab picked this up because the approach looks solid and it provides a largely independent way of looking at URR estimates from the traditional Hubbert linearization.

    It certainly beats what EnergySpin had to say about Laherrere:
    Considering Laherrere's mathematical fractal metaphysical nonsense I would take a good look at the USGS data by myself.
    Evidently, Khebab put his money where the spinster's mouth resides.

    The WashingtonMonthly reports that former treasury secretary Alan Greenspan has discovered the challenges of oil depletion in his retirement years.

    How convenient.

    In any case, this prompted Kevin Drum's commenters to offer up a lot of good links. Like this one concerning low-speed vehicles. As I predominately use the ultimate low-speed vehicle, the bicycle, I find it encouraging that many states have actual laws on the books to allow low speed limits on what we usually consider freeways. I knew that Canada's trans-national freeway system has long allowed bicycles, but it came as a surprise that :
    According to the map on their site, the only states that have not passed some form of LSV legislation are Idaho, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
    Drats on da Minnesoda dere. We'll just have to wait until Al Franken gets elected.

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    The Chomsky and Fisk antagonization effect

    Looking closely at what Greg Palast has written recently, it appears that he may have lifted his core ideas from Noam Chomsky, and Chomsky from the area of "Chomsky-linguism" that he routinely calls "obvious" and "clearly". If you recall Palast's argument, however flippant it may seem on the surface, it remains suspiciously close to Chomsky's "control over oil" argument.
    He made clear that resources = oil.
    And that it was all about control of oil, not about access to oil. With enough money, anyone can get access to oil, but the control requires typical American domination.
    And likewise, the knee-jerk response to Palast's arguments has looked suspiciously close to the response from Chomsky's detractors. From audio on the most recent Democracy Now!, Chomsky states during a U.N. press conference that we have historically shown that same control over Latin America, and warns, as Palast has, about the role of an autonomous Venezuela. The latest Harper's (not online) has a two-page annotated chart by Palast which concisely frames the argument.

    The same DN! broadcast has a short bit on CA congressional candidate Marcy Winograd, who I deeply dig by the way. I have listened to her speak several times on radio interviews, and come away captivated by her buzz-saw delivery. If she doesn't beat Jane Harman in the Democratic primary (the latest says likely not), she can't give up and has to try elsewhere.

    Oh, and by the way, talking about other things I would like to see: how about more people use this line for a signature closer:
    As usual, Robert Fisk was right ...

    I imagine you can replace Fisk with Chomsky and expect the same antagonization effect.

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    Naked Gun IX - The Return of the Electric Car

    "Gentlemen! I know you're all worried, and I agree - there's plenty to be worried about.

    Like this solar power plant. Already operational outside Los Angeles. Photo-voltaic cells. They convert sunlight directly into electricity. Fluorescent - lasts much longer than a conventional bulb, using a quarter of the power. Super windows - insulate as well as ten sheets of glass. An electric car - partially powered by solar panels.

    But the truth is, gentlemen, I'm not worried about any of these things.

    Because no one's ever going to know about them." -- Robert Goulet
    Truth evidently trumps comedy. The dialogue from the Naked Gun geniuses comes from an interview on Air America's Marc Maron Show with documentarian Chris Payne, where they grabbed it from his recent film "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

    I archived the audio here, a 16.6MB MP3 file lasting about 23 minutes.

    I think Maron and Earl show complete open-mindedness about the subject and I really look forward to seeing the documentary when I get the chance. Any film where they get Phyllis Diller as an interview subject can't miss. Ha!

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    How to tell if something reeks

    Somehow a blog entry of mine has generated a Google top-ranking for queries on "Klein gas". Because of this ranking and some recent news stories and videos on the hydrogen-oxygen gas mixture, I have received a spate of recent comments.

    Now, I have no special expertise on the reputed quackery of Klein gas, HHO, Aquygen, or Brown's gas (or whatever they decide to call it). But I do know that if a throw-away analysis of mine has a higher Google ranking than a credible science-based home page, then I have little hope for the gas's practical utility.

    Steve Lusko/Matthew Lesko. Which name matches that of a renowned pitchman charlatan?

    Lesko says this:
    "Someone's got to get this money, so it might as well be you."
    While Lusko says this:
    "The only fools that would [call the technology a scam] are people who haven't seen it. It's not possible to make that statement if they have any idea what they're talking about. ... I witness the technology every single day of my life."
    But Daystrom clears the board:
    "Twenty years of groping to prove the things I'd done before were not accidents... seminars and lectures to rows of fools who couldn't begin to understand my systems... colleagues, laughing behind my back at the 'Boy Wonder' and becoming famous, building on my work -- building on my work!"