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Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Modest Proposal

So the Neocons started with a plan, a plan theoretical on paper and untested in practice. The Neocons now actually have lots of plans, all likely doomed to failure.

Then we read this:

Iraq terrorist calls scientists to jihad
Al-Qaida-in-Iraq's leader, in a chilling audiotape released Thursday, called for nuclear scientists to join his group's holy war and urged insurgents to kidnap Westerners so they could be traded for a blind Egyptian sheik who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison.

The fugitive terror chief said experts in the fields of "chemistry, physics, electronics, media and all other sciences — especially nuclear scientists and explosives experts" should join his group's jihad, or holy war, against the West.
So's I've got my own plan, played around in my mind and show-room-floor modeled in this blog post. Rather concisely, my plan involves targetting all the scientists and engineers in fundamentalist, rapture-ready societies for special attention. I see the danger as too great and the consequences too dire for us to sit back and allow the leaders of these countries to try to advance their nuclear weapons capability. So the special attention I recommend involves a combination of (1) scaring the bat-sh*t out of every engineer that dares to get involved in the work and/or (2) actually rooting those people out with whatever means at our disposal.

I base my plan on the premise that engineers and scientists everywhere have enough technical acumen and awareness to understand current events. I presume some fraction of these educated folks would quickly comprehend that the civilized world has placed a huge bounty on their heads and would act accordingly. As an engineer myself, and associating with other engineers for years, I know that cowards and self-centered bastards fill our ranks -- independent of country of origin. The minute they get wind of Western society's plans to eliminate their line of work, entire development teams would start to disintegrate. They would quickly disperse like sheets to the wind. I find it hard to believe that the remaining engineers, no matter how intense their jihadist beliefs, could continue building nuclear weapons in their basement.

It really would not take much effort to throw a huge wrench in the works of any fundie-ruled country if we put such a plan in place. Why bomb a weapons plant when you could easily accomplish the same thing with psy-ops and special forces?

I could put the shoe on the other foot, and think how this would effect me if we turn the tables, and I and my fellow American engineers and scientists became targetted for the same treatment. Echoing Bush, I would say "bring it on". Deep down I believe that technologists that don't pursue rapture-relief objectives have a bit more cajones to stay the course. The other side would sooner piss their pants than support a cause that all their education contraindicates.

Guarantee that if we put such a plan in place, our fear of weapons of mass destruction (at least of the nuclear kind) would soon dissipate. Put the producers of the TV show 24 in charge, give them some funding, and we needn't worry. High tech weapons such as these do not exist without a stable cadre of well-educated technologists running the show. We could then start worrying about nuclear-equipped places like Pakistan that have ambiguous motivations for keeping their arsenal.

And before anyone criticizes my plan, just consider how much the Neocons have accomplished with their own brilliant plans. Not.

Wind Projection

I missed this news item when it came out earlier in the summer, but Air America's EcoTalk resurrected the issue of the military opposing new wind turbine projects because of potential radar interference. Even though some projects recently obtained a go-ahead, it still boggles my mind how the military can't resist taking a stupid pill and instead simply wiseup and drop the proposal.

Looking at the issue from the perspective of an engineer, I can say that no way will windmills cause interference that would overcome the abilities of a experienced radar technician to filter out. The turbines operate at a fixed (or at least very slowly varying) frequency which means that a straightforward notch filter should remove unwanted signals. After such filtering, radar should not experience a problem from phantom motion interference at all.

And I don't buy this rationale either:
A bureaucratic delay was created by a provision in a congressional bill that wind energy companies say was drafted to create more hurdles for a high-profile and controversial offshore wind project near Nantucket, Mass.

The law required the Department of Defense to issue a report assessing the impact that development of wind turbines would have on military radar.
No way. This has got BushCo fingerprints all over it and they have followed the first law of projection by blaming the opposition for their own actions.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Canadians determined to strike

Somebody1 decided that the area known as the Northwest Angle in northern Minnesota has turned into a potential security hole for terrorists arriving from Canada.

The northern-most arrow indicates traffic funneling through Minnesota's last one-room schoolhouse.

Watch the web cam at Flag Island for suspicious behavior. If you see anyone leaving by boat without a fishing pole please contact authorities immediately.

1Overheard on an Air America Radio news report, but have found no verification from online news sources. (Update: Link)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ultra Theory

Big Gav has raised an interesting question on suppression of emergent energy technologies. I can side with the rise of interesting storage ideas such as the ultracapacitor in part because of how much the micro-version of the lowly capacitor has steered high-tech the last few years.

In reality, what we now take for granted, capabilities such as persistent data storage, always-on clocks, and power-down state saving, have lead to a revolution in portable electronics. Things such as solid-state mp3 players have now become the rule, whereas a few years ago, users would have thrown their arms up in disgust trying to keep the things running with any reliability and without extreme care and feeding. You see, the advent of low-power consumption static RAM necessary to run these devices would have proved impossible without the reliable dielectrics that went into the solid state designs for memory. And the little bit of non-leaky capacitors that allowed clock circuitry to keep running has saved "dinking-around" time for lots of users. Lots of people would agree that dynamic RAM has done the trick for all of our desktop computing needs, but fewer acknowledge how static RAM (aka flash and non-volatile) has revolutionized the gizmo arena.

And if we can scale capacitance form the micro to the ultra in the same time-frame as the iPod has existed, we might still get some final juice out of the old reliable capacitor.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

DOE Report

A new report put out by the U.S. DOE has inspired a fresh perspective or two:
Bloomburg News reported that the Energy Department study found that conventional oil production reached "soft and sudden" peaks in Texas in 1972, North America in 1985, Great Britain in 1999 and Norway in 2001. These dates were predicted by formulas used by proponents of the peak oil theory to predict the crest of global oil production.
I predict the wingnuts will start anti-formula campaigns in the not-too-distant future to help the cornucopians out.

Hmmm, just a seasonal adjustment, a loss-prevention measure, or a genuine decline?
Preliminary data from tanker tracker Petrologistics showed Opec pumped 400 000 barrels per day less crude so far in September, compared with the whole of last month, on lower production from the group’s top two producers, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Is the U.S. Military hording and pricing oil?

Kunstler pleads for help in answering a question relating to an oil pricing theory he has:
"Surely there is some enterprising graduate student or trust fund nerd on the peak oil web sites who might investigate this dark notion."
Phew! (wipes brow) That definitely counts me out.

Now watch this drive...

Link courtesy of a Politial Animal commenter. As it happens Kevin Drum thinks Bush's poll numbers have nothing to do with gas price.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Secret Code Exposed

From last week's President's Address to the Nation, comes a reference to the 23rd Psalm. What does this specific fairy tale say?
... Thou anointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over. ...
No wonder his poll numbers have gone up recently.

And then Bush said this:
"We look to the day when the nations of that region recognize their greatest resource is not the oil in the ground, but the talent and creativity of their people."
Translation: Your oil will become mine, all mine.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


George Monbiot lets loose on a most cloying British columnist:
In January this year, for example, the Daily Mail's columnist Melanie Philips asserted that most of the atmosphere "consists of water vapour"(1). She now admits that this was a mistake, but she still maintains that the planet was two degrees warmer 1000 years ago, that there has been no overall rise in global sea levels and that as many glaciers are expanding as shrinking(2) -- all of which are just as wrong.
Now realizing just what kind of hard hitting research backs up her claims, I kind of doubt that we will see a Londonistan any time in the future.

In keeping with tradition, Bush's polling unpopularity tracks very well with the average price of gasoline, which means he has managed a bit of an uptick recently. No luck for Londoner Blair though, as his former trustworthy MP's have left in disgust, draining away political support almost as fast as the North Sea loses its own stockpile of black treasure.

I have had mixed feelings with the reshuffling of the Air America Radio lineup. First off, it disappointed me that the creativity, comedy, spark, and ranting of version 1.0 (Winstead, Maron, Seder, Malloy) have essentially gotten replaced with safer and less spontaneous NPR-lite-style programming. However from my own biased energy perspective, the lineup looks fairly solid. AAR has EcoTalk on 5 nights a week, and my local outlet decided to syndicate Thom Hartmann every evening.

Lots of good targets out there ripe for mockery; just from the tiny emirate of Dubai alone, we have ecologic/economic disasters in the making (via comments at TOD):

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Prankster's Gallery

Not since Ken Kesey's day has a group of like-minded individuals deserved the moniker of prankster as the cabal of oil depletion analysts (not). Just look at this gallery of production curves, stunningly and meticulously put together at GraphOilogy.

If that bit of heavy lifting ranks as a prank, kick me in the nuts.

Graphoilogist Khebab posted a couple of interesting and potentially relevant volatility charts to TOD a few days ago. In light of the spectactularly huge speculative losses in natural gas hedge funds and ongoing fluctuations in the price of gasoline, this must have a lot of people thinking -- do resource constraints wreak such havoc on the supply/demand curves that all bets go out the window on expecting any kind of stability?

Friday, September 15, 2006

GOM Discovery Model

I have waited for data corresponding to something like the recent deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM) find for a while. This discovery has the right elements of right-wing business hyperventilation and media overkill to make a significant point -- namely that in the greater scheme of things, contributions such as Jack 2 and its siblings remain insignificant for our future global oil production outlook.

Industry analysts estimate that the GOM discovery could add 5 to 15 gigabarrels of oil to our reserve. In terms of the oil shock model, the discovery provides an additional stimulus to that model's world estimate. Putting the two together and using the optimistic value of 15 GB, the new out-year estimate appears below. (Recall that the oil shock model uses a stochastic estimator, so the new curve provides a probability view of expected production and ultimate depletion).

Note the inset which provides a magnification of the two curves around the year 2030.

That basically explains why mental midgets like Larry Kudlow haven't a clue and no one should trust advice emanating from these investment charlatans. In other words, they don't know Jack!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Peak Update (alternate universe version)

Khebab has aggregated a bunch of world peak oil predictions on to a single graph and posted the results to TOD. I added the data points from my oil shock model from last year to his plot below:

The oil shock model sits right dab in the middle of the other pessimistic estimates, nearly matching Staniford's median logistic model in the out years.

As I noted in a comment over at TOD, Khebab's loglet analysis perplexes me a bit. Every time I see an analysis like the loglet approach, with a potentially infinite number of variables, and no physical basis behind it, I feel better about the oil shock model which uses a few intuitive stochastic parameters backed up by solid physical reasoning. Yet, as ProfGoose at TOD stated:
Still, I come from the school that the more models you run, the better job you do critiquing the assumptions of other models.

In the end, all we have is incomplete information, and we are forced to guess. I like having as many (prima facie valid) tests of those guesses at my disposal as humanly possible.
Can't argue with that. And as always, Khebab keeps doing the hard digging and his efforts remain greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


If it hasn't sunk in yet, Wisconsin and Oregon would consider this little tyke a lawbreaker.
At the start of the trial it was clear that neither the Judge nor the Officer understood just what a fixed-gear bicycle was. To help them visualize, Ginsberg likened a fixie to a child’s Big Wheel. Once everyone was clear and the cop was finished with his opening testimony, Ginsberg began his cross-examination:

Ginsberg (to Officer Barnum):
“When you approached the rider did she stop?”

Officer Barnum:

“How’d she stop the bike?”

Officer Barnum:
“I don’t know.”

“The gear itself stopped the bike.”

Officer Barnum:
“But the gear is not a brake.”


Now it was time for Officer Barnum to ask questions. He asked Holland,
“What would you do if your chain broke?”

“I would use my feet.”

Officer Barnum:
“What if your leg muscles had a spasm?”

“I’m not sure…these are emergency situations.”

Ginsberg interjected with a question for Holland:
“Did any of these situations happen on the day you were stopped?”


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Free the brake and your mind will follow

No break on no brakes: Cyclists object to ticketing over fixed-gear bikes -- bpurvis@journalsentinel.com (Milwaukee)

Cory Gassmann is selling fixed-gear bikes at his east side shop about as fast as he can stock them.

Matthew Hewitt, manager at Cory The Bike Fixer shop, 2410 N. Murray Ave., shows how he is able to use pressure to stop his "fixie," a fixed-gear bicycle that has neither hand nor coaster brakes.

In recent years, the bikes have gone from the favored setup for a handful of hard-core bike messengers looking for a low-maintenance ride to a bona fide fad among hipsters and cycling minimalists.

There is one group, however, the bare-bones bikes aren't so popular with: police, who say many of the bikes violate laws requiring a bicycle to have a brake.

Fixed-gear bikes, or fixies, are single-speed bikes without a freewheel. As the bike moves forward, the rider is forced to pedal. The cost varies widely, from bikes built from scrap parts to track racing bikes costing several thousands of dollars.

Fixies can be outfitted with a hand brake, but many are not. For those bikes, the riders slows down by pressing against the forward motion of their pedals.

Nicole LaBrie, a 23-year-old bike messenger, found out the hard way this summer that police don't consider that braking when she got a $64.80 ticket.

She was stopped for going the wrong way on a one-way street, for which she also was fined.

The officer "said, 'You don't have brakes.' I said, 'I do, but you can't see them. I can stop,' " said LaBrie, who plans to challenge the brake ticket in court.

The issue came to light in a recent case in bicycle-crazed Portland, Ore., in which a county judge ruled that 24-year-old bike messenger Ayla Holland violated a state law similar to Wisconsin's; she is appealing the ruling. The case has online message boards abuzz.

In Milwaukee, LaBrie is one of two people ticketed over the ordinance this year. Three were ticketed last year.

Milwaukee's ordinance was adopted from a state statute that reads in part: "No person may operate a bicycle . . . upon a highway, bicycle lane, or bicycle way unless it is equipped with a brake in good working condition, adequate to control the movement of and to stop the bicycle."

A ticket for riding without a traditional brake is reasonable based on how the law reads, but it remains to be seen whether a judge would agree, said Richard Withers of the city's Legislative Reference Bureau.

"It just depends on whether a judge thinks a fixed gear that will stop you is not a brake," Withers said. "In effect, it's a better brake than some of them . . . It's just a question of whether you define the brake broadly to one of those contraptions that pinches the tire."

Wayne Wallner, who owns Breakaway Bicycle Courier, where LaBrie works, said he carries a copy of the ordinance to help his argument.

"We have a brake. It's a chain brake. In fact, it's the simplest of all brakes, and the strongest," Wallner said. "I can show you that I can control the movement of my bicycle, so why give me a ticket?"

Wallner said that if police understand the mechanism, they could be convinced it is a legitimate and reliable braking system.

"We have even more control of our bikes. Our hands are always on our handlebars. Our feet are always strapped into our pedals. There are no gears to shift, no cables to snap," Wallner said. "It's like any other brake except it's done with your legs instead of your hands."

Police say they do understand how it works, and it's against the law.

"It's not a brake," said Mark Buetow, a community liaison officer for Milwaukee's District 1. "If the bike is rolling forward, the pedals are going forward. There is no way to independently stop the bike independent of the rotation of the rear wheel."

Buetow said affixing a hand brake would keep fixie riders from being ticketed.

Some bike activists wonder whether fixies are a legitimate traffic issue.

"There aren't a lot of bicycle crashes in Milwaukee to begin with, and I can't remember the last time I heard about a crash that happened because someone was riding a fixie and couldn't stop," said Jack Hirt, project coordinator for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

As the debate plays out, fixies continue to fly out of Gassmann's shop, Cory The Bike Fixer, 2410 N. Murray Ave., where he recommends an auxiliary front brake but falls on the side of the fixie riders' defense.

"We just can't keep them in stock to save our lives. There are all kinds of kids riding them," he said.
According to this logic, we need to outlaw skateboards, red wagons, tricycles, pogo sticks, and bowling balls.

In related factoids, I knew that Canadians allowed bicyclists on interstates but did not know that several American states did as well:
Allowed on all interstates: Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming

Allowed on certain sections of interstate system: New Jersey (Permits granted for particular use and location), North Carolina (DOT may approve opening certain section), Pennsylvania (DOT may approve opening certain section)

Allowed on interstates where no alternative route exists (usually means access is prohibited in urban areas): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington

Access not expressly prohibited: District of Columbia and Missouri

In all other states, bicyclists are not allowed to ride on interstates. However, even in these states, there are exceptions to this rule where bicyclists are permitted to use a particular bridge that is part of the interstate system (e.g. I-66 in Virginia, I-70 in Kansas).
I have snuck across a few freeway bridges where otherwise it meant a huge detour. Sometimes you got to do what you gotta do.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

At It Again

The commenters at HuffPo have universally dumped on the latest oil economics "analysis" by Raymond Learsy. This time Learsy has gone ga-ga over the latest deep-water GOM find and has taken to calling those not imbued his insider commodities trader knowledge as "peak oil pranksters". Learsy has posted regularly on oil and it appears that readers have started to catch on to his strategy of trying to create a populist wedge issue by placing himself against "Big Oil" and the corporatist's manipulation of prices. Take a look and you will find that no one buys his attitude and instead considers him a projectionist shill. One of the only commenters to agree with Learsy amusingly said this:
There is no shortage of oil. Professor of Physics at Cornell University, Thomas God, has proven that natural gas and oil come from deep reservoirs in the earth and are the result of material out of which the earth condensed. Those who believe gas and oil are biogenic hydrocarbons are dupes of the oil industry.

By: Ardie on September 09, 2006 at 01:40pm
Note the Freudian slip, Thomas God. Say no more, we all realize that God knows all.

Avedon at The Sideshow finds a brilliant quote that pure capitalists such as Learsy deliberately eliminate from their worldview:
A letter in Wednesday's International Herald Tribune:

"President George W. Bush has rightly pointed out that America is addicted to oil, but he fails to note the predictable consequences.

Addicts break into houses, steal stuff and shoot people. America is breaking into countries, stealing stuff and shooting people. Why is anyone surprised that those homeowners object to our addictive behavior? - Sheila Stoll Morcote, Switzerland

Stock Cars and Stock Puppet

Look to the right for an endangered species. The hairy NASCAR freak. Fortunately, our continual world-wide oil depletion has likely stopped his de-evolution in its tracks. Instead, human selection will proceed in accordance with the highly advanced hairless prototype road-bikers who would gladly trade in their Lady Bics for a skin-tight model.

I ran across the Neanderthal pic in the process of tracking down a reference by the coke-addled stock-market analyst Larry Kudlow, who said that with the latest deep-water finding in the Gulf, we now can count on "kajillions" of oil in reserve. This audio exaggeration happened on the Spew Spewitt radio show, who alas did not have the particular transcript. But he did have a few other transcripts up, which happened to have got impregnated with some type of latent Y2K virus or more likely follow the new Pat Robertson "special end-times calendar".

Do these right-wing nutters possess any intelligence at all? We just finished the State Fair here and the visiting Spewitt unwittingly got mocked by his sponsor, accurately portraying him as a 'minionist-on-stick.

Looks painful. But hey, definitely worth the ritual sacrifice for the discovery of a hard-to-reach, expensive, and unreliable source of fossil fuel.

And that constitutes the once-a-year right-wing nutter mention of our apparently solved oil predicament -- summed up by a single word: kajillions.

The great Digby elaborates on the Spew's unctuousness.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fiber: Good for You

I just received my ebay-ordered carbon-fiber road bike today. I probably deserve whatever bad happens, buying a supposedly new bike sight unseen and all, but I suppose I needn't worry about keeping it pristine now as I find a bunch of nicks and blemishes covering the frame. Apparently it tips the scales at 16.5 pounds -- about the minimum attainable without having to spend a few more grand -- but I don't really think I will notice the weight savings much. Taking the bike out for a test ride, I essentially dodged a bullet and concluded that I didn't get taken in completely by an ebay huckster.

Monitoring the way ebay bids pan out on used bikes, the average follows the basic pattern of depreciation of 35% from the manufacturer's suggested retail price on the first year of use and 10% every year thereafter. Overall, the auction participants follow the time-honored traits -- bidders get over-excited and the sellers act like they deserve every penny coming their way.

Best deal on an amazing piece of engineering: the $25 dollar BikeNashbar clipless pedals.

I also received a new pair of XC skate bindings in the mail. One of my currently installed bindings gave out last winter on the clap mechanism. From the looks of it, the makers of the binding, Salomon, actually reinforced the mechanism that broke on me, providing me hope that at least a few companies practice process improvement.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hot Gas

We should monitor this story as it winds its way into common wisdom or an urban legend.

"Hot Gas" Shorting Drivers $2.3 Billion And Who Cares?

The issue boils down to whether underground-stored gasoline cools off or retains its heat from transport. If the latter, the gasoline's volume expansion upon increasing temperatures means that consumers can get skimmed on the order of few cents to the gallon.

And speaking of hot air, don't you agree that this introspective article reads a bit on the precious side?
I came to the realization that no combination of alternative energy strategies was the messiah I had long thought. This was an emotional period in my life. ...
Please, put me out of my virtual misery before treacle like that emanates from this here anonymous blog.

Word of the day:
alternative energy sources /n. phr./ 1. New locations to drill for gas and oil. 2. Coal mines.
-- English-Winglish Dictionary (updated)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Great American Oiligarchy

An old-timer journalist calls it:

Stephen Fleischman
The war in Iraq is the best example of an oligarchy at work-produced and managed to make money and to secure the remaining reserves of oil in the world. As they say, the world's oil has "peaked". It's all down hill from here, so we better grab it before somebody else does. To do this, we're got to keep a perpetual war spinning in the best oil-producing areas, the Middle East and the Caspian region. (We'd do it in Venezuela if we could.) With Iraq as a pivotal base, the oligarchy is planning to stay there into the foreseeable future. Any talk about drawing down troops is just that, talk-a tease offered for the 2006 mid-term elections. Using Iraq as a military base also explains the moves on former Soviet states, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and others in the Russian orbit-targets of the giant oil conglomerates.

Oligarchies operate in secret. ....

The Great American Oligarchy

Monday, September 04, 2006

Production over discoveries

An oil depletion trend line that should get more pub plots the monotonically increasing ratio of production over estimated discoveries as a function of time. I show this value for each past decade in the following table:

I find it portentous that the numbers look like they increase at a roughly exponential rate, but we know that can't keep going forever. At some point it needs to show an inflection point and start to level off and then creep back toward 1 -- which means that we use as much as we find. And although the current decade has not contributed its data point yet, the accumulated numbers have not yet budged from the previous decade. When we look back at the inflected curve, it will point out in hindsight the physical rationale behind what we see in purely economic terms -- i.e. plotting the production peak alone only tells half the story.