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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

October Surprise

The vaunted "October Surprise" turned out as none other than the porcine Karl Rove.

Otherwise, the day's events happened to contain a bunch of interesting media twists.On the last item, I sent in a question to one of the companies allegedly involved in the advertising blackout, REI co-op. An outdoors store known for their liberal causes, I figured that they would give us the real scoop about the "REI Sporting Goods (sic)" involvement with ABC. They returned my query with a form letter within minutes of me sending it.
"Thank you for contacting REI regarding the Air America advertising blackout.

Today, an internal memo on ABC Network letterhead was posted on the Air America website and picked up by various blog sites. The memo lists companies that refused to have their radio advertising supporting Air America and Al Franken?s programming. REI was listed as one of the companies declining to advertise; however this information is incorrect.

REI has not refused to advertise during Air America?s programming. In fact, REI has placed radio ads on stations carrying Air America programming.

It is unfortunate that this misinformation has been widely distributed. We are currently working with our advertising agency and the ABC radio network to track down how this happened.

You are a valued member and I hope you will give us another opportunity to serve your future outdoor needs.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

REI Online Customer Service"

In the meantime, erstwhile Air America host Marc Maron and second banana Jim Earl made a triumphant return to the AAR airwaves and guest hosted the Springer show last week, hijacking the first hour with talk about energy efficient transportation alternatives [listen here]. The rumor mill has it that Maron may join fellow AAR outcast Mike Malloy on the NovaM radio network, and may also go over to Sirius satellite radio. Malloy had a great rant on how Bush has gone from his self-proclaimed role of King of America to King of the World, but eventually a caller had to correct this title and extend it to King of the Universe with the new Bush space policy.

Update: I sent the REI memo to Mike Malloy for an appraisal. Nothing gets past him as he replied succintly:
" In fact, REI has placed radio ads on stations carrying Air America programming."
Weasel words, as always. No one said these advertisers wouldn't advertise on STATIONS that carried Air America programming. The charge is they refused to be on Air America PROGRAMS.



Monday, October 30, 2006

Foolish deficiency

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe Toecutter provides a list of fuel-efficient cars that the USA will never allow consumers buy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Statistical Easterbrook

Atrios said:
Probably the stupidest person in professional pundtry is Gregg Easterbrook. He's exhibit A for "too stupid to know he's stupid" and more than that he's too stupid to understand that there are people who know things that he doesn't, and more than that he's so stupid that he sets himself up as an authority about things he has absolutely zero comprehension of. It'd be comical except he's helping to make even more people as stupid as he is and what we don't need right now is even more stupid people.
An early science blogger, most people consider Easterbrook particularly weak in relation to this aspect of his punditry. But I did not realize that he has had a parallel career as a sports columnist. Which makes this passage particularly troubling.
The latest silly estimate comes from a new study in the British medical journal Lancet, which absurdly estimates that since March 2003 exactly 654,965 Iraqis have died as a consequence of American action. The study uses extremely loose methods of estimation, including attributing about half its total to "unknown causes." The study also commits the logical offense of multiplying a series of estimates, then treating the result as precise. White House officials have dismissed the Lancet study, and they should. It's gibberish.
How somebody that writes a column about a statistical exercise such as competitive sports can not understand simple concepts such as sampling and extrapolation should really give up any hope of enlightenment. In his heart he probably thinks when a quarterback has a completion percentage of 50%, his passes make it only halfway to their target. And that the conceptual premise of sports betting likely equally baffles him. (He also makes stuff up, because no where does the Lancet say that exactly 654,965 people died)

Alas, hope springs eternal in the world of mindless sports zealots; as an antidote, we need more intelligent sports writing refugees like Keith Olbermann, Charles Pierce, and Dave Zirin branching out and not the typical dunderheads like Easterbrook.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Perils for Pedestrians

Tuesday, October 24, DISH Network will show Episode 81 of "Perils For Pedestrians".

Contents of Episode 81 (2003):
  • We talk with Linda Armstrong Kelly (ed: Lance's ex ?) about The Texas Bicycle Coalition at the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC.
  • We meet Greg Lemond, a three time winner of the Tour De France.
  • U.S. Representative James Oberstar gives the history of federal transportation policy.
DISH Network Channel 9411 -- The Universityhouse Channel
Tuesday -- 9:30 pm Eastern, 6:30 Pacific

Google Video
Note: Episode 81 is not yet available on Google Video.

Public Access Cable Stations
Note: Public access cable channels are showing different episodes than DISH Network.

The Klobuchars

I hope local yokel Amy Klobuchar gets the vote for US Senate instead of the cross-eyed toadie Mark Kennedy. Klobuchar has huge name recognition in Minnesota, partly because of her father's popularity as a newspaper columnist, environmentalist, and radio host. Jim Klobuchar, a former sportswriter for the Minneapolis StarTribune, wrote one of my favorite columns of all time, essentially lifting the veil for me behind the marketing of sports team "homerism". His main premise still holds true: if sports writers never wrote up close and personal stories documenting athletes' private lives, no sports fan would ever care which team wins or loses. Every big-time sporting franchise would lose a significant fraction of their die-hard fanatics because the players would become nameless automatons.

I use to live and die according to the machinations of the Twins and Vikings, but no more. But by effortlessly ignoring whatever some sports hack writes about a millionaire ballplayer going to some children's hospital as a charitable action, I brush off the success or failure of my hometown teams.

Klobuchar wrote about a taboo topic -- that which no sane (i.e. gutless) sports writer should talk about. That kind of journalistic honesty rarely shows up in the big media and in his own way spoke truth to power.

Oh and by the way, Amy Klobuchar, as a Democrat, understands all the important energy issues that a Republican's corporate and 'minionist walking papers would never reveal. I trust she also inherited some of her father's honesty and integrity, and will speak truth to power in much the same way.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Unlike a significant fraction of the population, I don't have a hard time understanding why academics vote progressive -- apparently some 3/4 of the time. Instapundit claims it occurs because of a lack of "diversity". What he attributes to group-think of some sort, I actually believe amounts to intelligence and plain logic mixed with critical thinking. In other words, things you learn at the university level.

This number does not differ much from a report released last year, and with the possibility of even higher numbers on the elite campuses.

And it goes back even further:
At the birth of Western culture, a teacher called Socrates was executed for filling "young people's heads with the wrong ideas."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Khebab plots

Khebab at TOD (linked via Big Gav) presented a range of peak estimates all on one plot.

I placed the Oil Shock Model data as stars on the graph. My estimate -- based on discovery data -- remains on the pessimistic side, agreeing largely with the ASPO data from October 2004 and Bakhtiari from 2003 (both using conventional plus NGL as the production total). ASPO has since upwardly corrected their estimates, something that I have really no basis for, as discoveries have not gone up much since late 2004.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Non-linear thinking curve fitting

Someone at TOD came up with the eyeball fit to the peaking of world oil production:

In the category of other weird statistical anomalies, the peakoil.com site shows up in the top 50 energy sites -- today 3 down from Chevron.

And who else but David Byrne should provide us the latest thinking in bicycle transportation. Mr. Byrne went to a talk by the former mayor of Bogota, Columbia:
One common measure of the cleanliness of a mountain stream is to look for trout. If you find the trout, the habitat is healthy. It’s the same way with children in a city. Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.

When I was elected mayor of Bogotá and got to city hall, I was handed a transportation study that said the most important thing the city could do was to build an elevated highway at a cost of $600 million. Instead, we installed a bus system that carries 700,000 people a day at a cost of $300 million. We created hundreds of pedestrian-only streets, parks, plazas, and bike paths, planted trees, and got rid of cluttering commercial signs. We constructed the longest pedestrian-only street in the world. [more than 20km!] It may seem crazy, because this street goes through some of the poorest neighborhoods in Bogotá, and many of the surrounding streets aren’t even paved. But we chose not to improve the streets for the sake of cars, but instead to have wonderful spaces for pedestrians. All this pedestrian infrastructure shows respect for human dignity. We’re telling people, “You are important — not because you’re rich or because you have a Ph.D., but because you are human.” If people are treated as special, as sacred even, they behave that way. This creates a different kind of society.


  • “If a bike lane that isn’t safe for an 8 year old child it isn’t a bike lane.”
  • “Traffic jams are not always bad. The priority is not always to relieve them. They will force people to use public transportation.”
  • “Building more highways never relieves congestion.” (This was not his insight, but he reminded us how true it is.)
  • “Transportation is not an end — it is a means to having a better life, a more enjoyable life — the real goal is not to improve transportation but to improve the quality of life.”
  • “A place without sidewalks privileges the automobile, and therefore the richer people in cars have more rights; this is undemocratic.”

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Worst Candidate

If former Minnesota Senator Rod Grams (R) succeeds in uprooting incumbent congressman Jim Oberstar (D) in Minnesota's 1st district, I will likely go into convulsions. The district covers northern Minnesota and includes Duluth, the scenic "Arrowhead", north shore of Lake Superior, Boundary Waters wilderness, and Voyagers National Park.

The potential convulsion-inducing issue statements that I heard Grams recite today include:
  1. The claim that Oberstar overspends on bicycling paths in the district. (Not that a congressman has any control over actual spending, so this must mean pork -- a very lean form of pork apparently)
  2. The claim that northern Minnesota industry can generate ethanol out of the abundant poplar trees growing in the region
  3. Lower taxes can bring back iron mining (which essentially ended over 20 years ago)
Grams' ethanol breakthrough will apparently generate a new industry for the district's citizens, who commonly refer to the poplar trees as aspen.

Sounds like a good idea: cut down the other hardwoods and conifers, then plant and harvest fast-growing poplars which will rapidly leech the soil, initiate strip mining to capture the rest of the locked-in iron ore, and everyone will want to visit and ride on the scenic biking paths. Who wouldn't want to see an imitation lunar landscape, decimated for your convenience and available at a fraction of the cost of the original?

Update: I found an independent opinion on Oberstar's respect for bicycling, and of his legislative methods.
During his little speech, Oberstar shared a little story about how he wanted to insert some pro-cycling language into some transportation bill, but he lacked the support of his colleagues to do it. So he got one of his staffers to write it up in such a way that nobody would understand it, and inserted it into the bill unnoticed, and it passed.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Tom Friedman has worked his way back to the idea of energy independence.
Coming in No. 1, with 42 percent, was "reducing dependence on foreign oil." Coming in a distant second at 26 percent was "combating terrorism." Coming in third at 25 percent was "the war in Iraq," and tied at 21 percent were "securing our ports, nuclear plants and chemical factories" and "addressing dangerous countries like Iran and North Korea." "Strengthening America's military" drew 12 percent. Mr. Carville also noted that because their polls are of "likely voters," they have a slight Republican bias — i.e., they aren’t just polling a bunch of liberal greens.[PDF poll]
Unfortunately, I believe this particular poll suffers from a lack of orthogonality. Too many of the concerns rely on combatting terrorism, which essentially ends up splitting the vote N-ways. But if Tom Terrific has spotted a trend, bet that it gets promulgated far and wide.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Role models

First Bush showed a keen mid-life interest in bicycling. Now he has transferred that interest to disgraced congressman Mark Foley. Talk about your good role models for the next Floyd Landis, errrr, I mean Lance Armstrong.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

To weave a web of deception...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I happened across an interesting post on the promise of ultracapacitor startup EEstor at Ezra Klein's site. Guest poster John raises a few interesting questions and a commenter gets the last word in. The latter reminds us that 1/2 the energy stored in a capacitor eventually gets wasted. I rolled this assertion around in my head for a bit and essentially come to the same conclusion. If you consider that any power source has an internal resistance (R1=r) that must eventually get balanced by an external resistive sink (R2=R), the most efficient power transfer occurs when r=R.


dP/dR = 0 when r=R
Reduce r and you have to reduce R to get the current up. Increase r and you have to increase R to generate a significant voltage drop. And since equal amounts of power get consumed internally and externally when r=R, only 1/2 becomes usable for an application.

The same principle follows from audio amplifiers having an internal impedance designed to match that of your typical speaker (8 ohms). Half the power gets lost as heat emanating from your amplifier.

Another reminder that energy storage devices by themselves do not save us from dealing with the real issue at hand:
But these are all forms of energy storage, not sources of energy on their own. The primary form of energy for the United States would still, even if every car had one of these EEStor capacitors in it, still be coal and oil. (We could use a lot less, but still.) The objective still has to be reducing the amount of oil we use to avoid Peak Oil (whenever it happens, better to prepare early.) Quite aside from Peak Oil, climate change requires that we stop using fossil carbon altogether. Storage technologies, exciting as they are, are not by themselves the answer.

Update: The anonymous commenter has a good point, but consider that big-money military rail gun development and other directed energy weapons has predominantly funded the development of ultracapacitors. Here, and in other applications (like the Tesla Roadster racing) where you need huge amounts of instantaneous power, power extraction efficiency remains important. All those fast discharge losses add up. But I'm happy to see designs get above 80% efficiency (charge+discharge). I have to admit that I must have retained little from the switching power supply class I took in grad school circa 1986.