31 January 2009

Crash Course

I'm finally getting around to watching Chris Martenson's "Crash Course". It's fascinating and horrifying all at the same time. A must see for everyone.

Building a Container Ship

Amazing video of the building of the world's largest container ship (Emma Maersk) in the Maersk shipyards in Denmark.

30 January 2009

Haggard and his Demons

...and you know what flavor of therapists he's been going to. "Heterosexual with complications"? Pul-leaze.

It's sort of sad. He's really dug himself into a deep deep hole and will probably be haunted by his denials and self-identified demons for the rest of his life. Too bad his religion says his natural urges are evil!

Interesting that he says he's read that religions are superstitions (presumably he's read Richard Dawkins) and this strengthened his faith. I hope he finds his true path and direction, and I really hope he can eventually be comfortable with who he really is.

28 January 2009

I Love My Nieces!

I had such a great time visiting with them this weekend. It's sad to think that if I move to Vancouver this fall I would miss out on them growing up when seeing them evolve and discover is such a positive awesome thing.

22 January 2009

The Culture of Canadian Frugality...

Low debt load will help us weather recession

It can't save us from recession, but it will certainly reduce the pain. Canada's low debt burden - among governments, businesses and households alike - gives the country a crucial advantage as it heads into what threatens to be a long haul. Backed up by stability in the banking system that has become the envy of many countries, the Canadian advantage is solid enough that even the global recession and financial crisis can't destroy it. “The advantage is fundamental. It's not cyclical,” said Sherry Cooper, chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns. “Nobody can take away the fact that Canadians are far less burdened,” both compared with other countries, especially the US, and compared with their own past. At the heart of the global recession is the fact that the US government, financial institutions, households and companies lived way beyond their means for a long time. The effects of too much debt are being felt everywhere. But since Canada's governments, financial institutions, households and companies aren't facing the same high debt problems, the country doesn't have to fix those problems to muddle through. “So much of what is happening in the United States is because of the credit freeze. There's no comparison here. Canada is in a far better condition,” Cooper said. The Canadian economy can't go so far as to claim it's not being “bothered” by the global recession. After all, it is contracting, too. The pain is mounting in many industries, and the ranks of the unemployed are growing. Recovery is a long way off. But Canada's reduced exposure to the unseemly debt loads at the heart of the crisis will stand us in good stead, economists say.

The most obvious Canadian advantage is government debt load. After fighting down the deficit in the 1990s, the federal government has been able to pay off more than $100B in debt in the past decade, and most provinces have vastly improved their books as well. Not so in the rest of the world. The US deficit has ballooned and Japan's is enormous. While most European countries have kept their debts under control, Canada's total debt burden is still lower. As Ottawa and the provinces ready themselves to spend billions in an attempt to mitigate the recession, Canada can well afford to do so. “The debt [burden] gives us lots of room to manoeuvre. This is the time to raise it,” said Andrew Sharpe, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards. “We've built up this big advantage, so let's use it. But wisely.” The Canadian banking sector has also gained international recognition for its ingrained conservatism. While major banks around the world have toppled and have required government bailouts, Canadian banks remain somewhat profitable and well capitalized. Unlike their global competitors, they are still lending, and are able to raise money in financial markets, albeit at steep prices. The corporate sector, as a whole, has been equally thrifty and conservative. Debt levels are low, and companies generally have high cash balances at the ready - useful for plugging holes due to sudden collapses in revenue that could well hit in the next few quarters. As corporate income surged over the past few years, economists were worried that Canadian companies weren't putting their newfound bounty to good use, by leveraging it for further expansion. Now, the companies' tight fists seem to be paying off. Canadian consumers have shown a similar conservative attitude toward debt. While US homeowners were using their houses as ABMs, and buying homes with spurious loans, Canada also experienced a housing boom and embraced the US practice of borrowing against our houses to finance consumption. But mortgages here were not nearly as high risk. Housing prices are now falling, but not to the extent as in the US or Britain.
(Globe and Mail 090122)

Canada has always been the voice of moderation and reason, internally and internationally. What in our culture makes this such a fundamental virtue of being Canadian? First of all, we're not as rich as some others and know that saving for a rainy day is something still somewhat admirable. We also plan ahead...the fact that if you're caught unprepared in our climate, you could potentially die does not go unheeded; in fact, I think it is deeply embedded in our collective psyche. I think that's where the frugality comes from. We may not be the life of the party acting like there's no tomorrow when times are good, but we also avoid the worst of the hangover when reality comes crashing down on us the following day, and have enough of our faculties to properly clean up the mess because we planned ahead a little bit!

21 January 2009

Heart of the Poisoned West

Tar sands smog seen worsening

Pollution will continue to plague Alberta's oil sands despite plans to pipe harmful greenhouse gases deep underground, according to documents obtained by the Toronto Star. Part of the task of cleaning up the oil sands involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them in geological reservoirs in western Canada. But chemicals linked to acid rain, respiratory problems and ozone depletion could escape into the atmosphere at an even faster rate, thanks to an estimated tripling of production from one million barrels a day in 2007 to 3.4 million barrels a day in 2017. That could occur despite proposed national caps on air contaminants. By capturing about 200 megatonnes a year of carbon dioxide, sequestration (as carbon dioxide storage is known) is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 80% in 2017, says an Environment Canada study obtained under the Access to Information Act. But, the study notes, "there are emissions of CO2 and air contaminants resulting from the generation of the energy required by (carbon capture and storage) facilities. The CO2 emissions offset the volumes captured by the facilities, while the air contaminant emissions add to the load on the environment." The June 2008 study predicts emissions of sulphur dioxide, the main ingredient in acid rain, will rise by up to 34% by 2017. Nitrous oxides - responsible for ozone layer depletion - will rise by up to 24%. Ozone depletion is linked to higher rates of skin cancer, among other health problems. Tiny particulate matter is set to jump by more than 60% in the oil sands and could lead to hazy skies and aggravate existing lung and heart problems. "It is dirty oil for any number of reasons, and it's not just carbon dioxide, " said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, which has researched the links between oil sands production and health problems. "It's very clear that we need to turn our attention to those other types of pollutants or else it's going to be a disaster in the future."
(Toronto Star 090121)

Peak Demand?

Slump raises spectre of peak oil demand

Oil demand may never return to growth in the US, Europe and parts of Asia, easing the strain on long-term supplies and prices as emerging countries burn ever more fuel. The surge in oil to a record near US$150 a barrel last year heightened concern the world will run out of crude and supply will start to dwindle--a theory known as "peak oil." Now a deepening recession and oil price collapse have raised the issue of whether demand, not supply, is nearing its peak. US February crude, which expired Tuesday, settled up $2.23 at $38.74 a barrel, while March crude fell $1.73 to $40.84 a barrel. London Brent fell 88 cents to settle at $43.62. "There is a reasonable likelihood that OECD oil demand has peaked," said Peter Davies, former chief economist at BP who was in charge of preparing BP's annual Statistical Review of World Energy, a standard reference work. Among OECD economies, the US had sustained robust oil demand growth due to an expanding economy and less focus on conservation, while western Europe and Japan were posting declines. US patterns could be about to change as the recession erodes consumption. By the time rich countries return to economic growth, their efforts to use less oil and slow the impact of global warming could be taking hold. However, the peaking of OECD demand will not choke off growth in oil consumption worldwide for the foreseeable future as emerging economies expand and billions of people seek to improve their living standards. "The West no longer rules the world," said a senior oil executive who requested anonymity. "Whatever the OECD is doing, it will not prevent worldwide energy consumption from growing, due to emerging country growth."

Meanwhile, Gary Dirks, president of BP for Asia-Pacific, said it is impossible to tell how much deeper oil prices will fall this year as demand for energy shrinks for at least the next 12 months. He also warned that decisions to delay investment in "diverse" energy sources because of the current global economic downturn will create a "black hole" in international energy supplies in years to come. "Big energy projects take 10 years. If we see a pause in investment today, we will not see the impact for 10 years," said Dirks at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong. His comments echo fears expressed by the International Energy Agency, which said last year long-term energy supplies are insufficient. The IEA estimated $26-trillion will have to be invested between now and 2030 to avoid a crisis. Even that level of investment might not be high enough, Dirks said.

In related news, Deutsche Bank said in a report that the crude-oil market needs more speculators to help stabilize prices six months after the traders were blamed for pushing the commodity up to its record highs last year. A lack of liquidity is distorting prices, particularly for near-term delivery, amid an oversupply of oil at Cushing, OK, said analysts led by Paul Sankey in New York in the Deutsche Bank report dated yesterday. This is sending the "wrong" price signals to refiners and producers. "We clearly have a fundamentally imbalanced market, with far too much crude, that needs to be resolved," the analysts said. "We need more market activity to correct these issues, but for technical, political and financial reasons, the liquidity of the market has dried up and the long-term price of oil is partly distorted." Analysts added, "We are now in an over-supplied bust cycle, and we need lower prices either to encourage demand or decrease supply. Production cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries haven't helped enough because lower oil prices haven't spurred an increase in demand."
(National Post, Calgary Herald 090121)


Argh! Of course, after a painful decision to finally buy my flights for the spring, Air Canada comes out with a sale three days later. I could've saved $100 on the flight to Vancouver! Grr....I'm going Westjet for the first time in, like, ten years and had to pay higher prices because their 'by demand' pricing was continuously going up after I missed the preliminary sale (at about the same price the AC tickets are going for today).

15 January 2009

Messed Up

Danny Kass sucking on some yellow snow?

06 January 2009

Wind - the next frontier

A Revolution In The Air

Robert Hornung is on a one-man mission to turn Canada into a wind-energy superpower. The head of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, Hornung says he doesn't see why Canada can't follow in the footsteps of European countries that generate a substantial slice of their electricity from wind: 20% in Denmark, 13% in Spain, and just under 10% in Germany. Hornung wants Canada to set a national target of having 20% of its electricity from wind power by 2025, or about the same amount now generated from nuclear plants. "It's not a goal that's unrealistic, at least from the perspective of what other jurisdictions are thinking about," he says. It may not be unrealistic, but it's a definite stretch from where Canada is now. Despite having a huge land mass and some of the world's best sites for turning the energy in wind into electricity - particularly along the Atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes coastlines and on the Prairies - Canada has been a laggard when it comes to installing wind turbines. Last year, it reached a relatively modest milestone, as wind power met 1% of the country's electricity demand for the first time. But despite wind's minute contribution to Canada's energy mix, it may be poised for a breakthrough.

One sign that a dramatic expansion could be in the offing is that whenever provinces put out tenders for new wind farms, they're swamped by offers to build them. One reason wind's moment may have come is environmental, because it's an electricity source that doesn't release large amounts of greenhouse gases. Wind farms, if used to offset fossil fuels, offer huge long-term emission reductions. Wind is also an ideal electricity source for a country such as Canada with many hydroelectric dams. The reason: Wind is highly variable, creating the need for backup power sources flexible enough to be turned on and off as needed to meet demand. It's hard to ramp up and down a nuclear reactor or a coal-fired plant, but far easier to change the rate at which electricity is made at a dam. The two power sources also complement each other because wind output is greatest in winter, when wind speeds are faster in Canada, and the air - because it is cold - is most dense, allowing turbines to wring out extra watts. This wintertime gain is a benefit for a utility with hydro capacity because reservoirs are at their seasonal ebb due to low river flows. Despite wind's obvious greenhouse-emission benefits, the power source isn't completely free of environmental controversy. Many influential national environmental groups, such as the David Suzuki Foundation, are vocal supporters. Yet community groups often object to wind turbines, worried about such issues as risks for birds and bats. Many opponents also object to the aesthetics of the massive turbines, with their blades the length of jet wings and towers the height of office buildings.
(Globe and Mail 090106)

Canada really needs to take a leading role in alternative energy. There's no reason why we can't or won't other than lack of leadership at the top to commit to it. We have so much potential, it seems ridiculous that we continue to use traditional energy sources that are running out and getting more expensive when there is so much potential on the other side!


It's almost inconceivable -- that today I obtained my first terabyte of hard disk data storage. I needed to get an external drive to move all my music onto and was planning on getting 500GB but found a good deal on a 750GB unit. In addition to the 250GB hard drive on the computer (which was full and initiated the purchase in the first place), that makes for a whole lotta data potential. My first home Windows PC in 1995 had 1.6GB -- humungous for that time. I couldn't believe I'd ever be able to fill it when I bought it. A terabyte back then was for supercomputers!

It's never ceases to amaze me how everything grows and evolves and becomes powerful and interactive. I'm such an old fart already.

03 January 2009

As Good As It Gets

My fantasy come true...well, except for the potential criminality part. This guy sure seized opportunity when it was presented to him!