30 March 2006

Deja vu at 24 hours to go

My last day of work finally came and went. I got a lot done but I'm now remembering some other loose ends I should've tied up before I disappeared. Oh well. I'm out of there - finally - for some escape and sun.

I'm tired. Joe and I had a fight last night that lasted until 3am. We've been here before, and ironically it was the same time last year. And the year before that. I'm not sure why this Arizona trip always seems to be the centerpiece of our fallings-out, but it sure makes it memorable for more than just the cycling, the sun and the laughs with good friends.

Why now? I think it has something to do with the last gasps of winter finally picking my last nerve to the point I can't take it anymore. The timing is impeccable. Training is getting monotonous, the weather still sucks, I'm finally losing my ability to distinguish colors from all of the grey and browns, and maybe it's just the time of year that I really get self-reflective and start inventorying my life.

I think Joe and I are done. We've had a good run. Like I said, we were at this juncture last year at the same time and I was going to leave then, but we talked things through and I decided to stay. We do this cycle of emotions annually. Well, specifically I do. The conversations always end up the same while we try to work this out. The issues are the same, apparently things don't change too much from year to year. This year, I'm more angry than sad, and I think that's giving me some more resolve to just get out and stick to my guns. I love Joe very much, but I can't do this anymore. I have to get out. I have to change. I'm just as guilty of our relationship failures. Neither of us really wanted to make the effort to change, and admittedly he was more successful at making changes than me. However, I can't live in this emotional prison. I have to get out, experience things on my own again. I'm actually quite excited about being independent again. I love loving someone and having them love me, but it's time for me to move on.

Of course, the negotiations will continue. Things may change. But I'm tired. I'm not happy. I haven't been for awhile.

I thank the Lorb everyday for my friends. Thank you so much guys for your words of encouragement and support. I love you all very much.

I'm going to be very sad and depressed once the gravity of the situation hits me, but for now, it's off to Tucson. I need a break so bad.


27 March 2006

Respite for sanity

I almost forgot that I live here. I've been so enveloped with stress and worry that I think I was going through a bit of an emotional breakdown last week. Things haven't been going so well as of late.

I'm putting 11-hour days in at work again, and now that I'm leaving on Friday the pressure's on to wrap some things up. My former manager and my current manager are both on vacation right now, so it's made the guidance thing a little weird. My team has been swallowed up by End User Services, and I can't say that anyone has been overly welcoming. I've been having some coding difficulties this week and everyone is apparently too busy with their own work to help out, so that has just made my time even more scarce to deal with the everyday hell that is our production computing environment. We're still dealing with lots of production issues on top of everything else, so there's not much good going on there.

Volunteerism is coming to a head this week as well. I've put huge amounts of time into getting the Synergy financials together for Alberta Corporate Registries and the AGLC, who provide our funding. I have had to get teammates to volunteer as examiners for the financial statements, and I've finally finished my re-adjustments tonight. I'm glad this is finally getting completed and should bode well for a summer of little accounting.

I've been drinking and smoking too much, and not getting out for enough runs and bike rides. I've managed to stay consistent with the gym workouts, but I feel the last month or so I haven't been treating myself as well as I normally do.

Joe and I are having difficulties. I always seem to 'power down' this time of year, re-evaluating the pros and cons of our relationship. I really feel that I'm in a rut, and I've given Joe an ultimatum that he either come along with me or I'm leaving him behind.

The housing market is stressing me out. On the one hand, I have friends and our realtor who are saying it's not a good time to buy, while others say I should just suck it up and buy something, otherwise we're going to be renters forever, in Calgary at least. This isn't making me happy either, since I'm basically impotent to do anything until Joe gets his shit together and gets a real job.

Some of my friends are stressing me out. Some people are going through their own crises right now, and I'm taking that on as well.

The articles and websites I've been reading haven't been adding to the negativity either. The world is such a messed up place, but after the past few weeks, I've really come to realize how powerless I am in the whole scheme of things to really do anything about it. I've been through my mourning period for what we have and what we're going to lose, and now I realize that I just have to be smart and set myself up as best as I think I can for what I think is going to come in the future.

So, I guess there is light at the end of the gloom. The days are getting longer. The weather is getting warmer. Summer is getting closer. I am slowly getting ahead in my workload, volunteerism and finances. My friends are more positive. Joe and I are talking a lot more lately. Racing season is coming soon, which is always a very positive force in my life. And Tucson is only four days away. I guess I officially start preparing for the trip tomorrow - I have an appointment for my first full-body wax! Eep!

I really hope I come back refreshed and rejuvenated to take on the world and my obligations once again. Bad times are always followed by good times, and a lot of the things I'm concerned about I really shouldn't be. It's time to start simplifying, pursuing those things that make me happy, and making the changes required to achieve that. That's about all there is in my power to do.

22 March 2006

2011? Bah!

Big SUVs may face tougher fuel standards in US

In a major shift, the Bush administration is considering subjecting the biggest minivans and sport utility vehicles to fuel economy standards for the first time. Besides pleasing environmentalists, the move would likely cause the sticker prices of General Motors's Hummer H2 and Suburban to jump, though the vehicles' owners would save money at the gas tank. The biggest SUVs, vans and pickup trucks - those weighing between 3,855 and 4,535 kilograms - have been exempt from US fuel economy rules since they were established in the 1970s, a time when regulators didn't foresee such large vehicles being used as the family car. In 2003, the administration announced plans to overhaul the fuel standards for all so-called light trucks (which include SUVs, minivans and pickups) and said it might also impose mileage targets for the big SUVs and passenger vans. But when the proposed rule was published last August, the heavy vehicles remained exempt. Now the administration is considering including them beginning in 2011, according to sources in the auto industry and with environmental groups who are closely watching the administration's course. The new proposal would still, however, only affect a small slice of heavy vehicles: The administration plans to continue to exempt pickup trucks, which constitute the vast majority of vehicles over 3,855 kilograms.
(Globe and Mail 060322)

Talk about a faint effort of too little, too late. Does anyone know how Canada classifies heavy vehicles?

Daylight time a puzzle for calendar makers

Time is running out for calendar makers to pump out their 2007 products, but it's uncertainty about time that now has producers puzzled. While some provinces have said they will extend daylight time next year to be in harmony with changes in the US, others are still mulling over the notion. Next year, residents of Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec will move their clocks ahead one hour on the second Sunday in March and roll them back on the first Sunday in November. The change extends daylight time by a month, shifting more daylight to the evening from the morning. It's a move designed to help conserve energy. Lights won't be needed as early in the evening, which is the peak period for energy consumption, according to officials. The change affects farmers, travellers, manufacturers, stock exchanges and broadcasters. It also potentially poses problems for trading relations between Canada and the US. It could also affect public safety, some say. Children would be walking to school in the dark on more mornings, but it would be lighter later in the day, which could cut down on traffic accidents involving pedestrians during rush hour.

Sherry Biggar, director of merchandising for the Calendar Club of Canada, which is the country's major calendar retailer and offers thousands of titles, says she often gets questions from her suppliers about Canadian holidays and the like. But this daylight-time problem is going to cause a lot of confusion, she says. “I thought the whole country made the switch. That would be easier,” she says. “. . . This could be a challenge because most of these are being printed as we speak.” Meanwhile, the debate is continuing. British Columbia just closed its comment period on the issue, which drew a surprising 3,000 submissions, according to Carol Carman, a spokeswoman with the province's Attorney-General's office. “People care about the time,” she says simply. It will take another month for those comments to be whittled down to a report that the minister and cabinet can assess. Peter Newbury, an astronomer with the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, points out that the switch won't manufacture sunlight, but it could help us make better use of it. Ultimately, he figures, politics and economics will guide British Columbia's decision, not astronomy. (Globe and Mail 060322)

Like I have mentioned before, does all the alterations and recodings and traffic reconfigurations, etc, etc really amount to any saving of energy at all? Maybe on the bottom line it looks like we're saving energy, but how much was invested? I think if this was factored in, the EROEI would drop dramatically. Wow, is the Bush Administration all over the place or what? It's getting very hard to determine what their intentions truly are with the things that they decide to enact.

21 March 2006

The End of Civilization :-(

I promise this is the most potent doom and gloom I will post for awhile. I think after posting this one, Cassandra-ing is over. This one is so good, I posted it twice (and in its entirety)! There is no further point to warning the masses. Read at your peril and exasperation. Our fates were sealed many, many years ago, and the powers-that-be are positioning themselves for a battle royale. I wonder what things are going to look like on the other side? I think Ross and my theories that we're really not much further ahead of feces-flinging monkeys will be ringing true in the not-to-distant future. Might as well make the best of things while they last...the 'what' has been answered, the only unknowns are the 'how' and 'when'.

The End Of Civilization

By Dave Eriqat

13 March, 2006

I had a mild epiphany the other day: it’s not President Bush who’s living in a fantasy world, it’s most of his critics who are. I’m no apologist for Bush – I neither like nor dislike him. He’s no more significant to me than a fly buzzing around outside my window. So permit me to explain my reasoning.

People look at Bush’s invasion of Iraq and see a miserable failure. But a failure to do what? Democratize Iraq? Eliminate Iraq’s WMD arsenal? Reduce global terrorism? If those were, in fact, the reasons for invading Iraq, then the invasion would have to be classified as a failure. But what if the real reason was to secure Iraq’s oil supplies, perhaps not for immediate use, and perhaps not even for use by the United States? Then the invasion of Iraq would have to be judged a success, a “mission accomplished,” so to speak.

Or take Bush’s seemingly irresponsible handling of the domestic economy. How can any sane person fail to understand that cutting revenue while increasing spending will produce deficits, and that those deficits cannot increase in perpetuity? Sooner or later that accumulated debt has got to have consequences. Bush appears to be acting as if there were no tomorrow. But what if there really were no tomorrow, financially speaking? In that case, the reckless economic policies of today would not only be irrelevant, but might actually be shrewd. I mean, if one knows that he is not going to have to pay back his debts tomorrow, then why not borrow money like crazy today? In fact, if civilization is coming to an end, then why not use all that borrowed money to stock up on guns and vital resources, such as oil?

Now, I’m just one person. And I’ve been closely studying economic, environmental, and energy issues for only a few years. And I’m no expert. Yet I’ve come to the conclusion – and I don’t want to be a “Chicken Little” here – that civilization as we have known it for the last century is doomed. Our wasteful manner of living – heck, the sheer size of our human population – is unsustainable. Everywhere you look you can see signs of strain on the Earth, from spreading pollution of the air, water, and land, to disappearance of life in the seas, to depletion of natural resources. Something’s got to give. Things simply cannot continue as they have.

If I can see this, I would guess the United States Government, what with its thousands of full time experts, probably can too. Now, if you are the government (and I don’t mean Tom “I am the federal government” DeLay), and your experts tell you that civilization as we know it is doomed, what do you do? Well, for starters, you do not tell your population of sheeple. That would precipitate panic and result in premature doom, which would consume the government along with everything else. Above all, government seeks to survive, so you would maintain the facade of normalcy for the benefit of your population while you use what time you have left to prepare, as quietly as possible, for the inescapable future.

What will matter in this future? Commodities, principally energy, food, and water. Everything else is secondary. Money is far down the list in importance.

So how would you, the government, prepare for a future world in which commodities are king? By securing today as many of those commodities as possible. Hence, the U.S. government’s binge of military base building throughout the commodity-rich regions of the world. What would you not worry about? Money. The only concern you might have for money is to prevent its premature demise. Hence, the smoke and mirrors used to paint a pretty but false portrait of the economy. Some will argue that the government needs more than just energy, food, and water to survive. True, but by controlling the bulk of the world’s key commodities, everything else can be procured, including human labor and loyalty.

In preparing for the future demise of civilization you would also seek to increase the government’s power as much and as rapidly as possible. Why? To maintain control over those increasingly precious resources, and equally important, to control people – especially your own people – by force, if necessary. Viewed in this light, the government’s aggressive pursuit of power during the last five years makes perfect sense. Ironically, President Bush got it right when he reportedly referred to the now totally eviscerated United States Constitution as a “god damned piece of paper.” That’s really all it is anymore.

So what fantasy world are Bush’s critics living in? The fantasy world in which civilization can continue as it has in the past. That we can continue to improve the standard of living of everyone in the world if we just return to a more sharing and egalitarian way of life, like that which we enjoyed between World War II and the mid 1970s. This is a fantasy. The Earth has finite limits. We are finally starting to grasp that fact with respect to oil. But oil depletion is merely the first in a series of coming crises ensuing from the finite confines of our planet. The fundamental problem – and I’m not a Malthusian – is that there are simply too many people for the Earth to sustain. This is why fish are disappearing from the oceans, why the supply of oil is unable to keep up with demand, why the globe is being deforested, why animal and plant species are going extinct, why water wars are in the offing. Perhaps if people were wiser and more willing to share, and implicitly, less greedy, we could sustain the more than six billion people on Earth, but, alas, such idealism does not describe human beings.

The one thing that has enabled the human population to grow to the immense dimensions we see today is oil, the resource facing the greatest challenge from depletion. As the oil supply diminishes, in the absence of herculean efforts to use oil more efficiently and fairly, large numbers of human beings will die off. Before then, soaring prices for oil will probably destroy the economies of the countries most dependent on the stuff, if not the entire intricately linked world economy. This is what I mean by the end of civilization. Of course life will go on. But it won’t be anything like what we’ve been accustomed to. Life will be more like that of the Middle Ages, in which a few wealthy lords controlled all the resources and possessed all the power, and the rest of the people – the lucky ones, anyway – were veritable slaves under these lords. In many ways that state of affairs exists today, but it’s unseen by all but the most observant individuals. The future I’m talking about, though, is considerably more spartan than what the worker bees enjoy today.

I believe that what we’re witnessing today is the inception of a titanic and protracted competition for survival: between countries, between civilizations, between governments and their people. Moreover, I believe the Bush administration is the first to recognize this competitive future, which explains its fundamentally different – seemingly feckless – behavior compared to past administrations. Bush’s favored courtiers, which include corporations, are profiting today and will become the new nobility in the coming New Middle Ages.

Truth and Distractions

The governments of the world, and the U.S. Government in particular, don’t want their people to know the truth. Governments usually end up seeing themselves as entities distinct from their people, and usually end up competing against them. That is true of almost every government on Earth today, and is especially true of the U.S. Government. Keeping the truth from people helps a government achieve its goals, for if the people knew the truth they might demand that the government start actually serving them.

One way to keep the truth from people, aside from today’s favored approach of simply suppressing it, is to feed them a steady diet of compelling distractions.

Elections are one such distraction. Elections arouse peoples’ passions and keep them entertained for weeks or months. Elections even give people the illusion of participation, when, in fact, elections mean absolutely nothing in a country like the United States, which is run by money. Of course, elections are run by, and legitimized by governments.

Sex is another good distraction, both sex scandals and sex-related social issues. Look at how much mileage the media got out of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals. By comparison, sexual abuses by the government’s own schoolteachers outnumber those by the church, but we hear nary a word about them because they reflect negatively on the government, and the media cooperates in keeping this quiet. Sex between consenting adults, which ought to be nobody’s business except the participants’, also consumes our attention. Look at how much attention people pay to homosexuality. Why is that anybody else’s business? It’s not, obviously, but it’s a great distraction from important things, such as the government’s reverse-Robin Hood economic policies. The same with abortion. Abortion is a personal matter for the people involved. It’s none of society’s business. But government stokes the flames of debate about abortion and it consumes peoples’ attention. Sexually transmitted diseases – diseases in general – are also good distractions and have the added benefit of instilling fear in the population.

Crime is a perennial distraction. Even when the crime rate is falling, the government seems to hype the crime statistics, making it seem as if you’re putting your life at risk by merely setting foot outside your front door. Of course, “crime” breeds prisons, and prisons empower the government. Given the benefits of crime to the government, it comes as no surprise that the government creates crime by criminalizing harmless behavior such as using drugs or hiring a prostitute.

Religion is also a distraction. Domestically, the fashionable debate today revolves around the separation of church and state. There really ought not be any debate. The United States Constitution is unequivocal: the United States Government shall not recognize any particular religion. End of story. It does not say how states may address religion, but it does say that all powers not prohibited to the states belong to the states. In my opinion, then, if a state wants to recognize a religion, it may do so.

The “clash of civilizations” is perhaps the newest distraction, and a completely contrived one at that. The Muslim-Christian antipathy that exists today is both a religious and a cultural distraction. Decades ago, when we were affluent, we were taught to celebrate cultural diversity on our planet. Today that same diversity is touted as the explanation for the “clash of civilizations.” Granted, different cultures are, well, different. But that doesn’t mean that conflict must ensue, and for decades there was no conflict. Clearly, the flames of cultural conflict are being stoked. By whom? The governments of the world and the media. For example, just look at how European media companies and European governments colluded recently to provoke Muslims with those silly cartoons. Cultural conflict not only distracts the masses, but it provides governments with a credible justification to increase their power, for instance, to regulate headgear worn in schools and restrict immigration. Of course, “terrorism” is ancillary to this clash of civilizations and serves to intensify anxiety in the population. How many acts of terrorism are actually perpetrated by governments? It’s impossible to say, but it’s definitely more than zero, a lot more. So why does a government perpetrate an act of terrorism? To create a distraction, to increase its power, or both.

One thing all of these distractions have in common is collusion – intentional or incidental – between the government and the media. The government seems to be involved in all of these distractions to varying degrees, ranging from merely exaggerating the importance of some distractions to actively orchestrating others. And none of these distractions could successfully distract the public without the zealous participation of, and amplification by, the media. One might argue that the media is naturally drawn to report sensational news, as a moth is drawn to light, and most of these distractions qualify as sensational. But I don’t think it’s purely coincidental that the media relishes these stories when there is so much overlap between the agendas of the government and the corporations that comprise the “media.”

Both entities seek to dominate, exploit, and control the “little people.” And the little people, being xenophobic, uneducated, and fearful, are easily manipulated in a formulaic manner to help undermine their own welfare. Simply look at their support for Bush, a leader who has systematically attacked their standard of living, not to mention their liberties. All Bush had to do was push a few buttons labeled “religion,” “sex,” and “culture” to get them to react like Pavlovian dogs. And all this button pushing was, of course, happily assisted by the media.

Resource Competition

We humans like to think of ourselves as so much more sophisticated than “lower” animals. In affluent times and places we can afford to worry about silly things like what movies will win Oscar awards, whether our body looks good at the gym, or where we will take our next family vacation.

But our existence still depends on this fundamental equation: survival = food + water + shelter.

In leaner times, like those we’re heading into, the above equation becomes sharply apparent.

Food production today is highly dependent on oil. Oil powers our farm implements, oil and natural gas are ingredients in commercial pesticides and fertilizers, and oil transports food to market. Today food travels as far as 10,000 miles from where it’s produced to where it’s consumed, which would be impossible without oil. Oil vastly increases agricultural productivity. So it’s because of our largess of oil that the human population has been able to grow as large as it has. One might say that humans eat oil. We can, of course, produce food without oil – barring such evil manifestations as crops that are genetically engineered to require the use of petroleum-based pesticides – but without oil food production will be much lower.

Water is a resource we take for granted. We act as though there is no limit to the supplies of water, and that there are no repercussions to our profligate consumption of it. We’re building cities in places without adequate water supplies – Phoenix and Las Vegas come to mind – and we’re using up vast reservoirs of non-replenishable “fossil” water, such as the Ogallala Aquifer in the American Midwest. Just as we’re failing to plan for economic “rainy days,” we’re failing to regulate our water usage to prepare for a literal lack of rainy days. We seem to think that the replenishable water supply patterns will remain unchanged, an especially optimistic expectation if the Earth’s climate is truly in the midst of major change. But the water situation is even worse in some other places than in America. Water delivery is partly dependent on energy, just as food production is. It takes energy to pump water from the ground, to transport it to where it’s consumed, and even to treat it. Of course, food production is vitally dependent on water.

I hardly need mention the importance of oil except to say that for the first time in history, the demand curve is passing the supply curve. Moreover, the supply curve will soon be heading downward and we’ll find ourselves perpetually chasing this ever dwindling supply downhill. When demand merely exceeds supply the price of oil will increase. But when demand exceeds supply and the supply starts to diminish, then prices will really go up, enough to destroy economies or render impractical the transportation of food and water to some places. But the gap between supply and demand means more than just higher prices. It also means shortages. Those who can afford to buy oil will usually have their needs satisfied, albeit at higher cost. But those who cannot pay the price will do without. Occasionally, even those who can afford to buy oil will be forced to do without because from time to time there simply won’t be any oil to buy on the global market, at any price. Imagine going to your local gas station and seeing a sign out front reading “Sorry, no gas.” Imagine going to your local grocery store and seeing empty shelves because the trucks that deliver goods to the store had no diesel fuel. Imagine having to bundle up in two layers of sweaters inside your house because you have to make half your normal allotment of home heating oil last the entire winter. These hypothetical scenarios will become reality and will occur with increasing frequency as time goes on.

What’s going to happen when people have to vigorously compete for food, water, and energy in order to survive? I think it’s going to get vicious. My opinion of humanity holds that in the face of such adversity, it will be every man for himself. Countries will compete against countries. States will compete against states. Cities will compete against cities. Governments will even compete against their citizens. Civilization, in the sense of the word “civility,” will be no more. Perhaps genetically engineered terminator seeds, depleted uranium, and exotic diseases are secretly intended to reduce the human population to alleviate resource competition.

Clearly, the U.S. invasion of Iraq is one of the opening salvos in the coming resource wars. And the U.S.’s belligerence toward Iran is undoubtedly due to Iran’s possession of vast oil and natural gas resources. Bear in mind that a country need not seek control of vital resources with the intention of consuming them. The country that controls resources can use those resources either as a lever to compel other countries to behave a certain way, or to buy other resources or finished goods, such as weapons and integrated circuit chips.

The End of Money

The 1970s was the apotheosis of the “American Dream.” Wedged between the preceding decade of civil unrest and the subsequent decade of recessions, rapidly rising homelessness, and mass layoffs, the 1970s was a comparatively idyllic decade. It certainly had its problems – stagflation, for instance – but even while living during that time I felt it was a special decade. Life was good; people were happy, friendly, and mellow; TV shows and movies were cheerful; civil liberties were at their peak; government power was at its lowest ebb; the country was affluent and at its peak of industrial prowess. It’s not a coincidence that the tallest buildings in America were built during the 1970s. Those buildings were icons of American industry and power. Although the Vietnam War raged during the first half of the 1970s, it was in the process of winding down and came to an end by the middle of that decade. The cessation of the Vietnam War was as much a reflection of the peoples’ desire to “live and let live” as it was a military defeat. Military conscription also ended in that decade, and even the cold war cooled off because of détente.

Unfortunately, what we didn’t realize at the time was that we would never again have it so good. The 1970s represented a “tipping point,” to use the popular vernacular, for the American Dream. That was when globalization really started to take off and when the serious decline of American industry began, the steel and auto industries being among the first casualties. Interestingly, the 1970s was also the decade of peak oil production in the United States, after which point we became increasingly reliant on imported oil, which greased our downward slide. What I didn’t realize until writing this was how crucial a role President Nixon played in creating this tipping point. Nixon opened the door to trade with China, a major player in today’s globalized economy. Nixon disassociated the U.S. dollar from gold, facilitating the destruction of wealth through unrelenting devaluation of the dollar. Nixon launched the war on drugs, a precursor to today’s war on terror (or is it the war of terror, I can’t tell?). Both the drug war and war on/of terror consume wealth in order to serve the imperial ambitions of the U.S. Government, but contribute nothing to the country’s production of wealth.

The 1980s was a decade in which previously accumulated wealth was systematically extracted, mainly through the mechanism of “Merger Mania.” The 1980s was a decade of marked industrial and economic decline, which was masked to a large extent by releasing into the economy some of the wealth squeezed out of these mergers, as well as by the massive accumulation of debt. The transformations of the 1980s also introduced a new component: the injection of foreign wealth into the country. Many of the assets sold in the 1980s were purchased by foreigners, especially the Japanese, a trend which accelerated toward the latter half of the decade, highlighting America’s economic decline. The 1980s also marked the inception of the mythical “service economy” theory to justify the profitable exporting of American jobs. The economy is like a pyramid. Forming the foundation of this pyramid is the one true source of wealth: natural resources – the free wealth given to us by the Earth and the Sun. Mining for minerals and energy, agriculture, fishing, and forestry are the source of all other wealth. Above this foundation are industries that utilize its products. These second level industries consist primarily of manufacturers that take raw materials and produce something of greater value. Above the manufacturers are companies that serve them, including law firms, advertising agencies, shipping companies, airlines, hotels, restaurants, and even entertainment. As wealth moves up this pyramid a little wealth, constituting salaries and savings, is retained by each level in the pyramid. The myth of the service economy, the darling theory of the 1980s, is that a country could retain the top of the pyramid and outsource the base of it. During the last three decades we have transfered much of the base of this economic pyramid to countries such as China and India and indeed, initially, the money kept flowing to the top of the pyramid which remained in the United States. But after a while, a new top of the pyramid began to form in those countries where we had shipped the base of the pyramid. Witness today not only the exodus of high tech jobs to China and India, but that in those countries pure service companies, such as advertising agencies, are also starting to flourish.

The 1990s was a period of greatly accelerating globalization and economic decline for the United States, aided and abetted by such treaties as NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO. Again, this massive decline was masked by the illusion of wealth that persisted during the huge stock market bubble of the latter half of the 1990s. Like merger mania before it, the stock market bubble attracted a lot of foreign wealth. A bit more previously accumulated wealth was extracted from rising human productivity here in the United States during the 1990s.

Finally, the 2000s so far represent an era massively dependent on inflows of foreign wealth. With our previously accumulated wealth now exhausted and little means left for fundamental wealth production, about the only thing keeping the U.S. economy afloat these days is consumer spending and deficit spending by the government, both of which are financed by growing mountains of debt, which is owed to foreigners. The United States has largely been reduced to a nation of people that sell each other hamburgers, with foreigners paying the checks. Asset sales to foreigners continue as well, the failed Chinese bid for Unocal and the not-so-failed Dubai bid to run some of our seaports being prominent recent examples.

During the last thirty years in America two persistent trends are clear: the steady depletion of existing wealth and decline in the means to produce new wealth; and the steady rise of an imperial U.S. Government.

Today, the economic imbalances in the United States economy are so vast that I cannot see how they can be corrected gracefully. Even more astonishing to me is that people keep buying financial instruments like U.S. Treasury bills. Do these investors really believe they’re ever going to get their money back? The national debt is so large that paying it down is nearly impossible, especially since there is no political will to either increase taxes or reduce spending. Obviously, the U.S. Government knows it cannot pay down the national debt, which is why it covertly relies on dollar devaluation to reduce the value of the national debt.

It’s only a matter of time before the majority of investors in dollar-denominated financial instruments open their eyes and stop buying those assets. When that happens the dollar is doomed. The government’s only recourse when it cannot borrow money will be to print dollars, which will only accelerate the dollar’s demise, possibly even inducing hyperinflation along the way.

If oil prices skyrocket because of the global supply and demand relationship and harm the U.S. economy, that could accelerate the dollar’s demise as well. I personally don’t see how the dollar can avoid substantial devaluation, either slowly or rapidly. I hope the decline is gradual.

All of the world’s government-issued currencies are in similar straits. None are firmly backed by finite, physical resources, such as gold. Consequently, all currencies have the potential to suffer from devaluation, even more so since the economies of the world’s countries are so intricately linked together. If one currency abruptly collapses, especially an important one like the dollar, they could all come crashing down.

Additionally, faith in the world’s currencies depends in part on globalization. The willingness of an investor in Japan to buy American dollars depends in part on the investor’s expectation of a continuing economic relationship between Japan and America. But in an era where global trade is increasingly challenged by oil shortages, faith in other countries’ currencies will diminish too. Countries will increasingly prefer to conduct international trade using universal mediums like gold instead of currency.

If currencies such as the dollar become worthless, even local trade may be conducted using gold or other precious metals. Such trade may, in fact, have to be conducted in black markets, since financially distressed governments will probably seek to confiscate all gold and precious metals from their citizens.

The bottom line is that government-issued currency will be a thing of the past. So how will the government continue to exist?

Acquisition of Resources

Without money or credit, government can only continue to exist through force. The United States government is particularly well endowed in this regard and has demonstrated its willingness to use force to acquire resources, and not as a last resort either.

Iraq’s oil is the first such resource to be acquired by military force. Iran’s oil and natural gas may well be the next. In the long run, the energy-rich regions of central Asia will also attract the hungry gaze of the U.S. Empire. Of course, other powerful, populous, and hungry countries, such as China and India, will also have designs on these energy-rich regions, which will probably result in significant wars. Oil from the Middle East will probably become so valuable that countries will have to provide a military escort for every tanker carrying oil across the ocean.

Domestically, energy will be controlled by the government. It will satisfy its needs first, corporations will have their needs satisfied second, and the populace will be forced to ration whatever is left.

Food is also critical to the government, comprised, as it is, of people. So it’s logical to assume that the government will at some point take control of food production. As with energy, the government will satisfy its own food requirements first, and the populace will be left to ration whatever is left.

If water becomes a scarce or unreliable resource, then we can assume that the government will take control of that as well.

In a future where money has no value, the only way a government can retain people is by providing them with food, water, and shelter. In fact, in a future world where resource competition is the order of the day, people will probably covet a government job – as a bureaucrat, a laborer, or a soldier – simply because it will mean three square meals a day and a roof over their head.

Of course, government needs more than just food, water, and shelter. Government needs weapons, vehicles, computers, communications gear, and myriad other manufactured items. Some of these things are manufactured wholly in other countries, or depend in part on components from other countries. Without money the government cannot buy these things. But it can trade precious resources, such as oil, water, and food, for them. Some critical factories, such as domestic weapons plants, may be taken over wholesale by the government for security reasons.

Slave Labor

Government cannot operate on resources and material alone. It also needs labor. Some of that labor can be “purchased” in exchange for resources. But in order for the government to operate “profitably” it will have to employ slave labor, that is, labor it doesn’t have to pay so richly for.

We already have such a precedent. Many of the two million people already incarcerated in this country are veritable slave laborers. They “earn” anywhere from twenty-five cents to one dollar per hour, often working for major American corporations. But in some cases these poor prisoners are then charged room and board for being in prison, thus wiping out their minuscule income. In effect, since they are being forced to work without making any net income, they are slaves. It does not challenge the imagination to envision future slave laborers working in factories manufacturing everything from machine guns to computers, or working on farms to produce food, returning each night to sleep in their prison cells.

The United States military is currently exploring ways to utilize civilian prisoners to satisfy the military’s labor needs. It’s only a matter of time before they come up with a justification for doing so.

Once the framework for utilizing slave laborers – all nice and legal, of course – is established, it’s quite easy to increase the pool of potential laborers, if necessary. The government merely has to criminalize more behaviors. Caught driving your car on the “wrong” day? Three months in prison loading ammunition cartridges. Caught possessing gold coins? Six months in prison assembling computers. Caught saying “subversive” things over the telephone to your aunt? Five years on a prison farm – for the both of you – tending crops. Of course, prison sentences will likely be accompanied by asset forfeiture, that is, if you have anything the government wants. There is already a precedent today for asset forfeiture too, even for minor offenses such as hiring a prostitute or having a marijuana cigarette in your car. Heck, simply walking through an airport today with “too much” cash on your person might result in it being confiscated.


Although this essay has mainly been a description of the United States and its future, much of it is applicable to the world as a whole. Some other countries may well face worse times ahead because they lack the natural resources and/or military might that the United States possesses.

The goal of this essay is not to propose solutions to the many problems facing us, although there are solutions, but to explain the seemingly irrational behavior we see around the world. Viewing the world today in light of the foregoing essay, Bush’s actions are understandable, even though I don’t endorse them: the competitive pursuit of resources, the rolling back of civil liberties, the carefree handling of the economy.

Copyright 2006 by Dave Eriqat

A magical credit card...

Congress Sets New Federal Debt Limit: $9 Trillion
by David Welna
From NPR.org

Morning Edition, March 16, 2006 · Faced with a potential government shutdown, the Senate votes to raise the nation's debt limit for the fourth time in five years. The bill passed by a 52-48 vote, increasing the ceiling to $9 trillion. The bill now goes to the president.

The debt now stands at more than $8.2 trillion.

Like many cash-strapped Americans who have maxed-out credit cards, the federal government has hit its limit for borrowing funds to keep operating. If the limit isn't raised, the government likely will run out of borrowing authority within days, risking a shutdown.

When President Bush took office five years ago, the national debt was at $5.6 trillion; since then, big budget surpluses have collapsed into huge deficits, and the debt has shot up nearly 50 percent.

Few lawmakers, though, wish to be on record as authorizing more debt -- the House goes so far as to hike the limit automatically. And Senate Democrats are telling their Republican counterparts not to expect any help from them, particularly in an election year.

If any amendments are attached to the Senate's debt measure, the House would be forced to vote on raising the limit -- the last thing many lawmakers seeking re-election want to be on the record as doing.

Treasury Secretary John Snow wrote congressional leaders last week, imploring them to immediately raise the $8.2 trillion debt limit. The House has put the new limit at $9 trillion.

I heard about this story last week, but only decided to rant about it today. Is this a clusterfuck situation or what? Of all institutions in the world, does even the US government have the ability to pay off a debt of $9 trillion? Estimates are that this will skyrocket even more once retiring baby boomers start drawing in large numbers from the federal social programs. Yikes. I have heard two analogies to this: the first was akin owning a magical credit card, with no limit and a continually increasing ceiling. Charge now, pay never. The other anaology was to getting an 'F' in a college course. Having the power to change policy, you simply stretch the curve so that a 'K' is the failing grade, and suddenly, your 'F' looks like a 'C'! See, easy!

18 March 2006

17 March 2006

Delirious food for thought

Mark Morford clarifies it this week!

Behold, A Furry Blond Lobster
Pipe down your jaded overfed multimedia self. Mother Nature still has dazzle in her pants

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, March 17, 2006

OK, look. You're up to your neck in it, right? Too much white noise, too many demands on your time, too many drains on your brainpower, too much porn and scandal and guns and stress and tech and not in a good way because you're all up in the world and the world is all up in you and sometimes you spin and spit and whirl and just can't seem to find the ground. I know how it is.

But then something happens. Sometimes, somehow, these little gems of yes slither on through, these little snaps to the bra strap of your id, a pinch to the ass of your jaded perspective and you blink once or twice and snap out of your lethargic frenzied turmoil, even just for a second, and your head clears and your karma tingles and you see anew.

It can happen. It's still possible. Like when you see, for the very first time in your life, for the very first time in anyone's life, a very weird, oddly beautiful, blond, blind, fur-covered sea creature no one's ever seen before in the history of man, so far as we know.

Did you notice? Did you see the picture? It's very possible you missed it because it just was a tiny news story from a couple of weeks ago, an entirely new crustacean discovered 7,500 feet down in waters 900 miles south of Easter Island in the South Pacific, a creature so unique and unlike anything previously discovered that scientists had to create an entirely new genus for it, Kiwa hirsuta, named after the goddess of crustaceans in Polynesian mythology.

Big deal? Maybe not. But then again, maybe. Maybe it's something to which you should pay some divine, gleeful attention. Maybe all you have to do is look a little closer. Maybe it's absolutely mandatory that we remember how to do so. You think?

Just look. Kiwa hirsuta is just a little bit mesmerizing, strange, stirs up something deep and potent. An eyeless, albino, crablike animal, sublime and magical and perfect in its alien weirdness, about six inches long with forearms sticking straight out of its torso and extending twice the length of its body, with those forearms and its legs all covered in a silky blond fur, like something straight out of a medieval bestiary, a Sendak book, a Castaneda shaman's peyote dream.

It's not a lobster. It's not a crab. It's not anything anyone really understands -- and why is it covered in silky blond hair? They don't know that, either. It just is. Just one of those things. Like why the whales sing. Like why some parrots can tell you who's calling before you pick up the phone. Like the existence of dark matter. We just don't know. And what's more, the sheer volume, the breathtaking amount of information we don't know is so mind-boggling and perspective-humping that you take one look at the Kiwa and only say, Hi again, wicked gorgeous unimaginable vastness of the universe.

I remember reading an essay not all that long ago about the cultural phenomenon of disappearing knowledge, about how there are only a finite number of true experts on certain very specific topics in the scientific and natural world, people who know some very deep things about some very crucial but slightly arcane or unpopular subjects, but who haven't yet had a chance to record all of what they know in books or on a Web site, and when those people die, so dies the information. Their few books go out of print. Their research fades away. There is no Wikipedia entry to archive their findings. There is no one to take up the thread. Their invaluable wisdom, essentially, vanishes.

Knowledge, we have to realize, is not fixed in stone. It is transitory and ephemeral and exists only so long as we pump it with meaning. It is merely part of the mad vaporous wheel of existence, an ongoing cycle of discovering and forgetting, of lurching forward and then stumbling back and standing up again and taking everything we think we know and packing it into a little puffy snowball and hurling it at the head of the Future in the hopes that the Future will turn around and unbutton its liquid trench coat and show us something surprising. Or maybe just laugh and return fire. It's pretty much all we can do.

How many thousands of species are as yet undiscovered in the world's oceans? How many tens of thousands of undiscovered plants and animals exist in the rain forests? What about the capacities of the human mind, the mystery of the dream state or the immensity of space, the knowledge that the tiny portion of our galaxy we've been able to see and measure, our entire solar system is merely the equivalent of a grain of sand on the edge of a beach stretching for roughly one billion miles?

Are you exercising the muscle of wonder? Is this synapse firing in your head every damn day? Are you aware of how much you are not aware of and are you completely humbled and amused and made drunk and giddy and turned on by this fact? Because let me tell you, it is easy to forget.

Kiwa hirsuta is, in short, a reminder. Of how little we know. Of how much we have forgotten. Of the wonders that exist everywhere, from oak leaf to vestigial tailbone. Of how we have to remember to look around, to cultivate the skill, the ability to see, lest we slowly go blind.

Some say we have lost our power to be awed. We are too jaded, too saturated with media images and the relentless barrage of unspeakable war horrors, too soaked in the info overload of the Internet to be able to process and filter and pick out the gems and stand back and say, Oh my God, would you look at that, and what might that mean, and isn't that just the most amazing thing and doesn't it put everything in a fresh perspective, just for a minute?

I say that's utter BS. We are never too far gone. I say it is merely a switch inside, a slight shift in the perspective, a re-activation of that portion in the human soul that, when slapped awake and re-energized and detoxified, will suddenly remember how easy it is to be continuously, calmly, deliriously amazed.

Kiwa hirsuta

Delirious bloggings


It's 6 in the morning and I'm awake. I woke up from a strange dream where I was hanging out with a bunch of people from Indiana or Texas, I can't remember. I was in their hometown for some reason - midwestern-type Americana - I think it was the fact that I had met this guy Jim from peak oil blogging and ended up staying at his place, we had been talking about some end-of-the-world-by-alien-destruction movie and bonded. I recall I had to be back in Calgary by the next day to catch the flight to Tucson, so I don't really know what the hell I was doing there. Nice people nonetheless. I never found out whether I made it home though.

Anyways, work is completely driving me bonkers and I think that's screwing up with my sleep. Our primary web server has gone mental over the past month and it's starting to impact deployment schedules of new applications among other things. Our infrastructure vendor's team lead and my company's web team have been trying to make the case since early February that something is horribly wrong but no one's been listening - that is, of course, until a part of one of the high-profile major multi-platform deployments this weekend was potentially delayed because of this problem. Now all the higher-ups are freaking out and making noise. The political fallout is sort of fun to watch, maybe because I'm so numb to the issue now and the pain it's been causing me and my short-staffed team. It's the same on the the vendor's side. Our vendor's team guys that we know quite well and depend on is threatening to quit due to the overwork and shortstaffing. My god - if we lose him from the vendor, I might as well quit too since our job will have just become a hundred times more frustrating. He knows the environment well. His teammate doesn't and is sort of a screw up. I shudder to think what will happen, but it probably will. Fucking work. I've been on a service call from 8am to 9am yesterday morning and another last night from 9:30 to 10:30 while I was working through the Synergy financials with Craig D and BK at Fiore. Luckily no calls overnight, but the processor on the web server has been pinned at 100% for a good 12 hours now, so I'm expecting something shortly. Fuck.

I'm currently watching the performance monitor on the web server and gauging the CPU usage per process with Task Manager. God I hate these tools -- it feels this is all I've been doing for weeks.

Main delirious rant over....

Anyhoo, yes, I started to get through the examinations of the Synergy financial reports with my two wonderful volunteering Examiners, Craig and BK. I'm very glad we went through this exercise since it showed me I still have some more cleanup to do on the statements. The overall figures are fine but some clarification of the details is required. It will be no problem to get this done in short order. I'm glad we got it started last night. I intend to have this stuff and the AGLC reports completed and sent to Edmonton before the trip to Arizona.

What's up with the Commonwealth Games? CBC's coverage is a whole two hours a day on NewsWorld. CBC.ca has absolutely nothing, neither do CTV or Global. I've been depending on the main Games site and CanadianCyclist.com for my information. Any other news in the main media is reports when someone wins a medal. We're still inundated with hockey and the Brier playoffs. What's up with that? Stupid mainstream media and professional sports, I hate you. Look what you've done! Okay, curling doesn't really count - that's just a result of the weirdness of the Canadian condition during the long isolated winters.

Travis Smith won a silver in the Keirin last night! Woo-hoo! Gina Grain and Mandy Poitras were a close 4th and 5th in the women's points race, and Zach Bell was 8th in the men's points race final.

That's about all my tired head can think about for now. I think I'll head to bed for another hour, unless the on-call phone rings of course. I've had the damn thing for a month now. I'm handing it over to the other teammate on Monday for a WHOLE MONTH. I can't wait!

Enjoy your green beers today, y'all.

16 March 2006

The drinking game I thought of...

Of course, I think everyone was thinking this during last year's OLN coverage of the TdF:

From the Fat Cyclist. Brilliant!
July 07, 2005

Lance Armstrong Drinking Game = Certain Death

Last night I did some ironing. Usually, I can get about 10 days worth of ironing done in around an hour, but last night my wife was out, my kids were in bed, and I had a stage (stage 5, the one right after the TTT) of the Tour de France to watch. I figured I'd take care of ironing every iron-able thing in the house, and watch the entire stage.

But this was no idle idle-TV-watching session. I had a plan: I would count, from pre-race show to podium ceremony, exactly how many times the announcers referred to Lance Armstrong.

I set myself some ground rules, in order to keep the count from being frivilous or exaggerated. I wanted this to be an honest count of how often Lance is mentioned. Here are the rules I worked with:
1. He could be referred to by name or by strong inference. Eg, "leader of the Discovery Team" is good enough. "Discovery Team" is not good enough. If in doubt, don't count it.
2. Count one reference per paragraph. Eg, if Phil mentions Armstrong in one sentence and then mentions him in the next couple sentences, count only one reference. If, however, he references Armstrong in adjoining but distinct topics, that counts as two.
3. An interview with Lance counts as only one reference. It's not fair to expect the interviewer or interviewee to not talk about anything but Lance in this circumstance.
4. Seeing the text "Lance Armstrong" on the screen does not count. He must be verbally referenced by an announcer. Seeing Lance himself does not count. This is because OLN only controls what we hear when watching the TdF, not what we see.
Can we agree that I set out to be conservative and honest in how often Lance was mentioned? Yes, of course we can.

Drumroll, Please

Using the above rules, I counted the announcers verbally referencing Lance Armstrong 162 times in stage 5. This was a flat stage -- one that had nothing to do with him.

A couple of days ago I wrote a jokey little fake news story about Phil Liggett getting fired because he waited more than 40 seconds between Lance Armstrong mentions. Turns out my exaggeration was way less absurd than I thought. 162 mentions divided into 180 minutes of coverage = 1.1 minutes between Lance Armstrong mentions, on average.

And I was being kind -- I was counting during my recording of the early-morning live stage, not the Extended-Coverage Primetime stage, where Al Trautwig and Bob Roll talk about him even more.

If there was a "Lance Armstrong TdF Drinking Game" (copyright 2005, Fat Cyclist Enterprises -- all rights reserved), no human alive could make it conscious to the end of the stage.

Hey, OLN, I've got a tip for you. If you want an audience for the Tour next year, you may want to consider talking about someone who'll be riding in it then. Just a thought.

How to be a Bike Snob

If you are a cyclist (and considering where you're reading this, I think that's a safe bet) the following moment either has happened, or will someday happen: you are on your bike, riding along, when a car passes you, with one or more bikes on its rack. After doing a quick assessment, you think to yourself: "Junk." Or it might be an equivalent word, probably with the same number of letters.

That, my friend, is the moment you became (or will become) a bike snob.

Gauge your bike snobbery
So, the question is not whether you are a bike snob. Rather, it's how much of a bike snob are you? Answer these questions to find out.

1. Finish the following statement: "My bike is worth…"

a. More than I admit, even to close personal friends. And it's worth much, much more than I admit to my significant other.
b. Its weight in gold.
c. Really, just gold? Well, I guess that's how much mine was worth before I upgraded the wheelset.

2. You are riding along the pavement when a recumbent bicycle with a bright orange flag approaches from the other direction. What do you do?

a. Smile and wave. Hey, it's great that we're both on bikes, no matter what kind!
b. Nod nearly imperceptibly, so that others on real bikes will not notice.
c. Ignore this Philistine, and avoid eye contact at all costs. Cross to the other side of the street if necessary.

3. When was the last time you cried?

a. When someone stole my bike.
b. When someone scratched my bike.
c. When I was in the local bike shop and a pudgy guy with baggy MTB shorts and a BMX helmet came in with a Bianchi S9 Matta Ti/Carbon Record, asking the mechanic to put slime in the tires so it wouldn't get flats so often.

4. How many bikes do you own?

a. Two
b. 3-5
d. Are you counting complete, rideable bikes? Or do I have to count all the frames? Also, do I have to count the vintage bikes I keep in case I ever decide to open a bike museum? How about the one that Eddy Merckx once touched?

How to score yourself: Oh, be serious. You know how bad you are.

Snobbery 101
Now that you've admitted that you're a bike snob, you have a choice: either suppress it, or embrace it. My recommendation: embrace it. Be as snobby about bikes as you possibly can. What's the fun in being only mildly elitist? Here, then, are several helpful tips you can use to demonstrate to everyone you ride with that, of all bikes in the world, the only one that is not beneath contempt is the one you are currently riding.

Bike brands: They're all terrible
There are a lot of bike manufacturers out there, and chances are you don't have enough time to learn why they're despicable on a case-by-case basis. Instead, use the following sweeping generalisations.

Big Manufacturer: If you need to scoff at a big-name company's bike, take a back-door tactic: talk about how great they were back in the old days, before they sold out to corporate interests and lost their soul. Isn't it a shame that now they just churn out these lowest-common-denominator bikes with no personality or flair? As a bonus, if you're confident they manufacturer overseas, make a snarky remark about cheap labour and getting what you pay for.

Boutique Manufacturer: Crouch down and take a very close look at the welds on the bike. After looking at a couple, say "Hmmm..." When the bike owner demands what that "hmmm" meant, raise your eyebrows, smile just a tiny bit, and say, "Oh, nothing."

Drilling Down: What's Wrong With Everything
The bike manufacturer is just the tip of the iceberg, though. To be a really thorough bike snob, you need to start looking at minutiae.

Frame Material: All frame materials have weaknesses. No, not weaknesses inherent to the materials themselves. More importantly, they say something about the rider that can be easily despised. Steel? Oh, you must be going for that "retro" look, at the expense of performance. Titanium? That's so 2002. Carbon fibre? Well, that's fine, if you want to be a slavish, me-too trend follower. Aluminum? Well, that both delivers a harsh ride and is what beverage cans are made from. Which, when you think about it, is just…well…gauche.

Components: Naturally, any bike snob will quickly assess all components on a bike and be ready to render judgment. If any of the components are below the absolute highest level available, well, it's almost too easy. "You know, I think you made a good choice going with Chorus for now, though once you've been riding for a while you may notice that shifting just doesn't feel as crisp as with Record."

The real component snobbery battle is not in the level one has, then, but rather with which brand: Campagnolo or Shimano. And since both in reality work exceptionally well and are extraordinarily reliable, the bike snob needs to work in intangibles: "I find Shimano componentry lacks the flair of Campagnolo." Or, "Campagnolo just doesn't feel as precise as Shimano." The great thing about these statements is that they indicate that your biking sense is so refined that you notice subtleties that aren't even there. Even more importantly, they can't be quantified, so they can't be disproved.

Cranks: Really, this one is too easy. No matter what crankset you are scoffing at, ask the hapless owner "Don't you find that crankset a little bit flexy?" Try to use an incredulous tone, as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. Do not consider, even for a second, the possibility that 99.99% of cyclists cannot tell the variance of flexibility between the stiffest and squishiest cranks in the world.

Pedals: If the pedal has any float, squinch up your nose and say it doesn't have a positive enough connection to the bike. Say it feels "vague." If it has no float at all, indicate that it's a fine pedal indeed…if you don't mind having your knees ruined.

Fallback Position
It's possible, unfortunately, that you may run across another cyclist who is as great a bike snob as you, but happens to know more about bikes. This is a serious situation, but can be handled. If you are countered at every assertion, stop talking. Smile. Fold your arms. Exude wisdom. Eventually, the other cyclist will stop talking and look at you, wanting to know what you're smirking about.

This is when you say, "Nothing, really. To me, it's not really so much the bike that matters - after all, it's the engine that's going to win or lose the race, isn't it?"

Of course, this is a two-edged sword. Now you've got to prove that you're not just a bike snob, but a fast cyclist, which, naturally, you'd be happy to do - in fact, you would insist - if it weren't for your tendonitis.

Source: cyclingnews.com


GM to speed up production of SUVs

General Motors, encouraged by the early sales of its Tahoe sport-utility vehicle, is accelerating its production schedule by several weeks for other SUVs built on the same platform, a spokesman said yesterday. GM is also asking its parts suppliers to ship components ahead of schedule so it can move to production more quickly for new versions of full-sized SUVs such as the Chevrolet Suburban and the GMC Yukon XL. The moves are key since the revamped line of SUVs represents the struggling automaker's most important product launch this year, in a profitable segment of the market that it has long dominated. The new SUV was launched amid concerns of high gasoline prices and a consumer backlash against SUVs.
(National Post 060316)

...and the lower gasoline prices we're witnessing right now AREN'T temporary? Hoo boy, these guys just won't give up, will they? The epitome of maintaining the status quo because change is too uncomfortable (err...unprofitable) is emblazoned in GM's current belief system. It makes me sick.

15 March 2006

Seasonally appropriate

I'd like to thank Jon for getting me started on a slew of time-wasters at work today!
You're 50% Irish

You're probably less Irish than you think you are...
But you're still more Irish than most.

I'm a Scot dammit! Not one of those damned bog-trotters!

Dependable and Cheap -- yup, that's it

What's better than a straight black coffee? Oh yeah, and by the way, the stupid quiz kept saying I'm a Heineken even though I hate that skunk piss.

You are a Black Coffee

At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable

At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty

You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it

Your caffeine addiction level: high

14 March 2006

King of Lies

You know how you always promise yourself, ummm....about Tuesday after a weekend of debauchery that the next one is going to be quiet and home-centric? I'm the king of that lie, and last weekend was yet another testament to my tower of lies.

Friday night, I was planning on staying at home, getting up early on Saturday and doing the routine run/gym thing. However, I got a call from Joe around 7:30 that our old friend Amber was in town and she was heading over to Swan's with Allie for a few. I decided to hike down there and visit for a while since I hadn't seen Amber in a year or so. One beer turned into numerous, and then we were off to Allie's place for some food and wine.

Friday night in tongues
Joe was already pickled - on the verge of out of control - and decided to pick up a few more bottles of vino. We stuck around Allie's place until midnight or so and then went home. But holy shit, did I ever feel like crap on Saturday morning. Went back to bed until 12:30. Finally got out of the house at 2:30, thinking the gym was open until six so I could get pumped up pre-Mardi Gras party, however it closed at four, so I decided to head down to Bongs & Such on Macleod Trail and check out their wares. Let's just say I had to get up to speed technologically with Ryan and Doug, who are lightyears ahead.

The boys started showing up around 8pm. Doug, Jeff, Calvin, and Raymond came over for a few pre-drinks. Everyone was in a pretty mellow mood so we just sat around, had a few beers and headed to the dance around 10:30.

I was quite impressed with the interior decorating in Victoria Park Hall - quite impressed - but then the Different Strokes Swimming Club always knows how to put on a good party. AND THE DANCERS! Yowsa!

Hazy flutterboards
Lots of speedo-rific action. We had a lot of fun, but the party ended for Joe and I around 12:30, when we caught a ride home with Doug and Darren.

Buddies in bad hats

that fricking tongue again...

Could almost pass as professional...

Nice finale
Sunday morning was LAZY. I finally left the house around 4:30 for the Synergy Exec meeting at Cafe Beano - got a lot accomplished there, then I met Ryan at the Ship & Anchor for a few bevvies and then we went to his place to hang out for the evening. I was so exhausted and hungry later in the evening I was starting to get grumpy and wanted to go home. Ryan didn't have to work on Monday, so he got ready and went out cougar hunting after he dropped me off.

Belting out in the basement

55lbs at four months...

I was still exhausted on Monday and slogged through work, however the workout at Peak Power Monday night made me feel a lot better.

I went for a hard run tonight along the Bow to the weir and then circled around along Blackfoot through Inglewood back to Gulf Canada Square for a shower. I had to do some work testing once I got home, but I'm much better now.

I also picked up tickets for Joe and I for the Pete Tong show at Tantra next Wednesday. Sleep deprivation be damned - I'm going out to a DJ show! It's been forever.

Saturday and Sunday is the ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships at the Oval. Tim was supposed to pick up a ticket for me, since the event is already sold out - I hope he did. We may have to curl twice on Saturday as well if we win our first game at 2:30, so I may not be checking out the gorgeous men in skinsuits until Sunday. We'll see how that goes.

And I'm looking forward to attempting another quiet weekend this weekend coming up....yeah right!

DP DQ'ed

DP World tried to soothe US waters

Two days before the Bush administration asked Dubai Ports World to sever its US operations, the company gave three Republican senators an extraordinary package of proposed security measures meant to seal off management of its US subsidiary and to pay for screening devices at all 51 ports it operates around the world. The four-page offer, titled "Proposed Solution to the DP World Issue," promised to give the Department of Homeland Security nearly complete say over the company's US corporate affairs and to install "state-of-the-art radiation-detection and gamma-ray inspection devices" at company expense at all current and future DP World-managed ports overseas. Experts estimate that step alone could have cost DP World as much as US$100 million, though some ports where DP World operates already have some radiation-detection devices. But the March 7 offer was largely dismissed as a good effort that came too late. On Thursday, Republican congressional leaders told President Bush the deal faced inevitable collapse in Congress. Bush then sent word to Dubai requesting that DP World shed the US assets it had acquired. The government-owned company agreed, and announced within hours that it intended to sell its concessions and various assets at five US ports, though details on how or when that will happen remain sparse. The company had planned a news conference that afternoon to announce its package of security offers.

Supporters of the DP World deal said the fact that the last-minute offer went nowhere shows how the cards were stacked against DP World, no matter what assurances the company put forward. Security experts say the March 7 offer, which hasn't previously been made public, far exceeds anything that other US port operators have agreed to, including ones operated by other foreign government-owned companies. Some Republican Senate staffers now believe that if DP World advanced these proposals earlier, the deal may have held. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said last week that having DP World run operations in New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans would have enhanced US security by giving US law enforcement a better handle on security at US terminals. Yet those assertions were based on a package of commitments, hailed within the government as unprecedented, that the company put forward in January as part of an interagency security review. The March 7 offer, on the other hand, went beyond what was put forward in January. Meanwhile, the political firestorm the purchase caused in the US persists. House Republicans said yesterday that they still planned to vote on an amendment as early as this week to officially kill the deal, despite the company's promise last week to shed its US assets.
(Wall Street Journal 060314)

It's too bad the American politicians freaked out on this one, but is not surprising considering the knee-jerk reactions everyone's having to everything these days. DP World manages facilities all over the world and obviously has to uphold a certain acceptable level of security in order to maintain their reputation, which apparently they go to great efforts to exceed. I'd think that with the scrutiny over this deal, DP World would've made the American port facilities the most secure in the world, but now it will be pushed onto a bumbling American company that may or may not screw things up, including security. Ah! Who am I to say? I still believe this was a Bush Administration decision made long ago to appease the rulers of Dubai to maintain a very strong relationship IF (when) a need to secure the Straits of Hormuz becomes a necessity in the near future. The decision to abort this deal, whether or not there were ulterior motives, appears to be motivated by fear, racism, and hypocrisy.


Conservative groups boycott Ford

Nineteen conservative groups said Monday they would reinstate a boycott of Ford, contending the automaker reneged on an agreement to stop supporting gay rights organizations. The groups set up a website urging supporters not to buy Ford vehicles after the automaker said last December it would continue running advertisements in gay publications. The American Family Association, which is leading this latest effort, had originally called for a boycott of Ford last year but suspended it for six months at the request of some Ford dealers. "Ford has the right to financially support homosexual groups promoting homosexual marriage, but at the same time consumers have a right not to purchase automobiles made by Ford,'' said AFA chairman Donald Wildmon in a statement. Ford, in a statement, said it was ``proud of its tradition of treating all with respect and we remain focused on what we do best, building and selling the most innovative cars and trucks worldwide.''
(Associated Press 060313)

First they boycott, then they stop. Then they start again. If the AFA wasn't so blatantly anti-everything, it would almost be funny. Ford knows the value of the pink buck and attempt to market as such, but really, what bona-fide card carrying homo would be caught dead driving a Ford anything anyways? Hello? We're talking the biggest status sheeple ever known here! I mean, really....

Poor Miss Deaf Texas

Miss Deaf Texas dies after being hit by UP train

Miss Deaf Texas died after she was struck by a train March 13. Tara McAvoy, 18, was walking near railway tracks when she was struck by a Union Pacific train. A witness said the train sounded its horn until the accident. McAvoy, deaf since birth, won the state title in June and represented the state "with dignity and pride," said state pageant director Laura Loeb Hill. McAvoy was to represent Texas at the Miss Deaf America pageant this summer. McAvoy graduated last year from the Texas School for the Deaf, attended Austin Community College and then started at Gallaudet University in Washington.
(Associated Press 060314)

Okay the irony is thick here. I don't want to imply I'm making fun of deaf people or even beautiful deaf people....I don't know about you, but if I was deaf, walking along the railway tracks would NOT be one of my more frequent pastimes. This story seems really weird to me.

13 March 2006

US Army: Peak Oil and the Army's future

Published on 13 Mar 2006 by Energy Bulletin. Archived on 13 Mar 2006.

by Adam Fenderson and Bart Anderson

“The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close,” according to a recently released US Army strategic report. The report posits that a peak in global oil production looks likely to be imminent, with wide reaching implications for the US Army and society in general.

The report was sent to Energy Bulletin by a reader, and does not appear to be available elsewhere on the internet. However it is marked as unclassified and approved for public release.

[ UPDATE: Since we wrote those words several hours ago we've been informed that a reference to the document now appears on a Google search, including a link to the full PDF on a .mil server. "Somebody must be watching you guys!" writes reader SG. Before we wrote this report we sent out copies of the abbreviated report to several associates including PeakOil.net who published it on their website. So who knows? I've updated the links to the report in this article to the location on the government servers. -AF]

The report, Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations (PDF &ndash 1.2mb), was conducted by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is dated September 2005.

Author Eileen Westervelt, PE, CEM, is a mechanical engineer at the Engineer Research and Development Center (US Army Corps of Engineers) in Champaign, Ill. Author Donald Fournier is a senior research specialist at the University of Illinois’ Building Research Council and has worked with the Corps in the past.

Westervelt and Fournier give special credence to the work of independent energy experts, such as the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) and the Oil Depletion Analysis Center (ODAC). They seem to place very little credibility on the more optimistic oil production forecasts of the international energy agencies. They reproduce ASPO graphs and quote ASPO member Jean Laherrere on why the US Geological Survey (USGS) future oil availability estimates are clearly overly optimistic:

The USGS estimate implies a five-fold increase in discovery rate and reserve addition, for which no evidence is presented. Such an improvement in performance is in fact utterly implausible, given the great technological achievements of the industry over the past twenty years, the worldwide search, and the deliberate effort to find the largest remaining prospects.
The authors warn that in order to sustain its mission, “the Army must insulate itself from the economic and logistical energy-related problems coming in the near to mid future. This requires a transition to modern, secure, and efficient energy systems, and to building technologies that are safe and environmental friendly.” The best energy options they conclude are “energy efficiency and renewable sources.” However, "currently, there is no viable substitute for petroleum."

They do not expect that any transition will be easy: “energy consumption is indispensable to our standard of living and a necessity for the Army to carry out its mission. However, current trends are not sustainable. The impact of excessive, unsustainable energy consumption may undermine the very culture and activities it supports. There is no perfect energy source; all are used at a cost.”

The report includes what looks like a solid overview of the pros and cons of all major renewable and non-renewable energy options. They consider problems associated with hydrogen, shale oil, biofuels and tar sands. On nuclear energy they note that "our current throw-away nuclear cycle uses up the world reserve of low-cost uranium in about 20 years." They hold more hope for certain solar technologies and wind turbines, however, "renewables tend to be a more local or regional commodity and except for a few instances, not necessarily a global resource that is traded between nations."

Overall this is surprisingly green sounding advice, and one might think out of left field for one of the most environmentally destructive and energy consuming institutions on the planet. And yet the report does not seem to be at odds with the Army's new Energy Strategy which sets out five major initiatives:
1. Eliminate energy waste in existing facilities
2. Increase energy efficiency in new construction and renovations
3. Reduce dependence on fossil fuels
4. Conserve water resources
5. Improve energy security
(See: hqda-energypolicy.pnl.gov/programs/plan.asp)

Westervelt and Fournier assert that changes must be made with urgency. However they express concerns that "we have a large and robust energy system with tremendous inertia, both from a policy perspective and a great resistance to change." In light of this, “the Army needs to present its perspective to higher authorities and be prepared to proceed regardless of the national measures that are taken.”

Westervelt and Fournier suggest "it is time to think strategically about energy and how the Army
should respond to the global and national energy picture. A path of enlightened self-interest is encouraged." As we approach Peak Oil, what is ecologically sound and what is perceived to be to in an institution's practical benefit might tend to converge, at least in some respects - even those of an institution such as the US Army.

An 8 page summary of the report (PDF – 75kb)
Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations - full report (PDF – 1.2mb)
A related powerpoint presentation by Donald Fournier( PDF &ndash 1mb)
Sustainable energy demands decisions that look beyond cost (one-page commentary by Westervelt and Fournier in Public Works Digest, p. 16; PDF – 723kb)
A Candidate Army Energy and Water Management Strategy by Westervelt and Fournier (118 pages, PDF &ndash 2mb)

Some extended quotations from the document:

Energy Implications for Army Installations

The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close. Domestic natural gas production peaked in 1973. The proved domestic reserve lifetime for natural gas at current consumption rates is about 8.4 yrs. The proved world reserve lifetime for natural gas is about 40 years, but will follow a traditional rise to a peak and then a rapid decline. Domestic oil production peaked in 1970 and continues to decline. Proved domestic reserve lifetime for oil is about 3.4 yrs. World oil production is at or near its peak and current world demand exceeds the supply. Saudi Arabia is considered the bellwether nation for oil production and has not increased production since April 2003. After peak production, supply no longer meets demand, prices and competition increase. World proved reserve lifetime for oil is about 41 years, most of this at a declining availability. Our current throw-away nuclear cycle will consume the world reserve of low-cost uranium in about 20 years. Unless we dramatically change our consumption practices, the Earth’s finite resources of petroleum and natural gas will become depleted in this century. Coal supplies may last into the next century depending on technology and consumption trends as it starts to replace oil and natural gas.

We must act now to develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to transition to other energy sources. Policy changes, leap ahead technology breakthroughs, cultural changes, and significant investment is requisite for this new energy future. Time is essential to enact these changes. The process should begin now.

Our best options for meeting future energy requirements are energy efficiency and renewable sources. Energy efficiency is the least expensive, most readily available, and environmentally friendly way to stretch our current energy supplies. ... For efficiency and renewables, the intangible and hard to quantify benefits — such as reduced pollution and increased security — yield indisputable economic value.

Many of the issues in the energy arena are outside the control of the Army. Several actions are in the purview of the national government to foster the ability of all groups, including the Army, to optimize their natural resource management. The Army needs to present its perspective to higher authorities and be prepared to proceed regardless of the national measures that are taken.



Historically, no other energy source equals oil’s intrinsic qualities of extractability, transportability, versatility, and cost. The qualities that enabled oil to take over from coal as the front-line energy source for the industrialized world in the middle of the 20th century are as relevant today as they were then. Oil’s many advantages provide 1.3 to 2.45 times more economic value per MBtu than coal (Gever, Kaufman et al. 1991). Currently, there is no viable substitute for petroleum.

In summary, the outlook for petroleum is not good. This especially applies to conventional oil, which has been the lowest cost resource. Production peaks for non-OPEC conventional oil are at hand; many nations have already past their peak, or are now producing at peak capacity.


Conventional Oil Resources

In general, all nonrenewable resources follow a natural supply curve. Production increases rapidly, slows, reaches a peak, and then declines (at a rapid pace, similar to its initial increase). The major question for petroleum is not whether production will peak, but when. There are many estimates of recoverable petroleum reserves giving rise to many estimates of when peak oil will occur and how high the peak will be. A careful review of all the estimates leads to the conclusion that world oil production may peak within a few short years, after which it will decline (Campbell and Laherrere 1998; Deffeyes 2001; Laherrere 2003). Once peak oil occurs, then the historic patterns of world oil demand and price cycles will cease.


Notes from BA

The military's commitment to energy policy

A notice in the report says, "The findings of this report are not to be construed as an official Department of the Army position unless so designated by other authorized documents." However, as AF notes, other U.S. Army planning documents seem to share the concern about energy supply. And as USA TODAY reports:
Spurred by a 57% increase in fuel costs, the Pentagon is speeding up its efforts to save energy and develop new sources of power. ...All military bases and facilities have been ordered to cut energy use by 2% per year and pursue alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind.

The recent spate of articles about the military and energy policy bespeaks a more comprehensive outlook than either that of the Democratic or Republican parties, or most environmental organizations. For example, see:
America’s strategic imperative: a “Manhattan Project” for energy (Joint Forces Quarterly)
Toward a Long-Range Energy Security Policy - Parameters (US Army War College).

Energy efficiency

The report only surveys energy sources, and does not cover efficiency or conservation. Nonetheless, the report notes that energy efficiency is "the cheapest, fastest, cleanest source of new energy." (p.58). In other publications, the authors do cover energy efficiency in detail, for example in A Candidate Army Energy and Water Management Strategy (118 pages, PDF &ndash 2mb).

Many of the projects pursued by author Fournier are related to sustainability and energy efficiency (also see article in Green Biz).

Online accessibility

The fact that the document does not seem to be online is puzzling. Searching with Google yielded no results. According to a note on page 4 of the report, the report should be available at http://www.cecer.army.mil/, a URL which seems to be obsolete or inaccessible.

Possibility for an alliance

I'm more sanguine about the role of the military than AF. Within the military and intelligence communities, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for unproductive resource wars. See the talks by Ex-CIA directors James R. Schlesinger and James Woolsey as well as the work of Gal Luft at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS).

Is the unlikely alliance described in the following article more widely possible?
You wouldn't have thought it possible: a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency drawing a standing ovation from a room full of left-leaning environmentalists right here in Eugene.

But that's exactly what happened at the University of Oregon's Public Interest Environmental Law Conference Saturday afternoon as R. James Woolsey - the nation's chief "spook" under President Bill Clinton from 1993-1995 - spoke passionately about the need to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

"There is a moral dimension to this," Woolsey said. "We should be good custodians of the Earth.

And if that means creating an unlikely alliance between national security hawks, American farmers, Christian evangelicals, liberal do-gooders and tree-hugging environmentalists, Woolsey said, that's just fine with him.

"All these groups are starting to come around on this set of issues," he said...

"Speaker inspires no-oil thinking" in the Eugene Register Guard, March 5, 2006.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

UPDATE: Sohbet Karbuz points out this much earlier discussion of Peak Oil in military circles from 2002:

From Petro to Agro: Seeds of a New Economy, by Robert E. Armstrong

He also notes that "The DoD Energy consumption was 961 trillion Btu in 2004. (Annual Energy Review 2004 Table 1.13) and army consumes only 1/10th of it. The Air Force is the biggest consumer."

See also Sohbet's recent article, The US military oil consumption.