Wednesday, December 31, 2008

happy new year

Another year in the can. Great year personnally, sucky year
professionally, double sucky based on world events.

Idiots outside are shooting off fireworks in a cold drizzle. It's not
quite cold enough to snow, but it's gotta be really close. Most of the
fireworks are plain old firecrackers, but some are m-80's or cherry
bombs, and the smart-asses are putting them in communal trash cans
at the end of the street. They've been doing that intermittently for 2
weeks, with a single bam scaring me every other night. Now it sounds
like a world war 1 artillery duel. tiring.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Penguin time

Scary new article on Watt's up with that from a gentleman named
Don Easterbrook. The article is written
by the same scientist that predicted global cooling back in 1998.
This is what the agw modelers should be doing, making predictions
that are then confirmed by data. If a prediction based on a theory is confirmed by data
that might mean the theory is true. Currently, global warming
is changing to 'global climate change because the data doesn't fit
the theory.

If another theory is proven by data; such as climate runs in cycles
that are mostly driven by the earth's orbit and the sun's varying output
that can be most easily measured by the number of sunspots over time,
then AGW is pretty much disproven.

It might be true that adding carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can warm
things up slightly, maybe 1 degree over 100 years, but that is just noise
compared to the signal that is imposed by the sun.

Here's a current picture of the sun from

Here's another chart from wikipedia with an explanation
that seems to knock the idea of the sun having no influence
on global warming on the head:

On longer time scales, the sun has shown considerable variability, including the long Maunder Minimum when almost no sunspots were observed, the less severe Dalton Minimum, and increased sunspot activity during the last fifty years, known as the Modern Maximum. The causes for these variations are not well understood, but because sunspots and associated faculae affect the brightness of the sun, solar luminosity is lower during periods of low sunspot activity. It is widely believed that the low solar activity during the Maunder Minimum and earlier periods may be among the principal causes of the Little Ice Age. Similarly, the Modern Maximum is partly responsible for global warming, especially the temperature increases between 1900 and 1950. One study (Stott et al. 2003), argues that residual warming due to the sustained high level of activity since 1950 is responsible for 16 to 36% of recent warming.

I can't say for sure what is going to happen with the climate, it might
be warmer or colder, but the AGW crowd seems to say that earth's climate
will change and that will confirm their theory so we need to put a large dent
in productivity and especially in the United States we should all move into large
apartment blocks and sweat in the heat. On the other hand, Don Easterbrook is
making a prediction that the sun will have fewer spots and it is going to be colder
over the next thirty years then the previous thirty years.

If I were designing two experiments and presenting them in an undergraduate
engineering lab, I'd get laughed off of the podium if I presented AGW. It's not
testable, the only way to see results is wait 100 years or make models that don't
match any data. The global cooling theory is a great experiment, you can do it
with cheap equipment, just a telescope, a thermometer and a notebook and it will give
a yes or no answer within3 years. Are we back on the normal sunspot cycle yes
or no? If no, then put a stop to trading carbon credits and other nonsense and focus
on what is important, energy security for the USA and for the people of the world.

On Don Easterbrook's website he has a great presentation that explains why co2
didn't cause temperature changes up to 1945, so it's unlikely that it is changing the
climate now.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Global cooling, global warming

Fabius Maximus has a standard good post on the current financial
crisis with a summary of what could happen going forward:
The new world brought another period of peace and prosperity, perhaps the greatest 5 decades the world has ever seen. Now the two superpowers of that era both have uncertain futures. The world sinks into a severe recession. Beyond that new challenges await.
  1. Peak Oil
  2. Climate change
  3. The shift of power from west to east
  4. The second demographic transition, aging populations and perhaps extinction for some major cultures.

Perhaps the new world will be even better than we can dream. It’s up to us.

A commenter there leaps on the climate change item. Fabius leaps back:

Fabius Maximus replies: The climate has never been static, but the changes have often been bad news. Like the little ice age. I suggest you study that period, as there are tentative indications we may be entering another cooling cycle. Not necessarily as long or cold, but even a few years of cold would be unpleasant with world grain inventories (per capita, or days demand) at 50-year lows.

He makes a good point. I might be a an "AGW denier", but I do worry about
climate change. Here in Italy it's much colder than I'm used to and it makes
me see that without heat it would be pretty hard to live through the winter.
If it is several degrees colder it would be much worse, going from 3 degrees above
freezing to zero would mean snow every day instead of just rain every day.

If it is just warmer then things might suck, we might be sitting under ceiling
fans stirring barely moving air as we sweat like a scene from In the Heat of the
Night, but we won't die. We need to be spending money to mitigate current problems
now, and not wasting trillions to prevent a potential one or two degrees
temperature rise in 100 years. Problems #1 is my real worry.
If we have energy, we can survive heat or cold. If we don't have energy, then
instead of surfing the internet while watching my new 40" LCD I'd be in
bed with 2 comforters on top of me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How do we want the future to think of us?

This video is required watching. Whether or not AGW is real and
temperatures are increasing, this approach from Bjorn Lomberg will
give better results. Rather than spending billions to try and mitigate
global warming to little (or I think no) effect, we can spend billions of
dollars and fix real problems that are killing people or making them
needlessly unhealthy today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Global warming my butt

Ace links to excerpts from a report on the senate website (I connected via
interweb pipes) where 650 earth scientists are saying they are global
warming skeptics. I'm a skeptic too, but as a paid minion of the oil industry
that's part of my job. These guys have day jobs as scientists so believe
them (hypnotic voice on) believe them, believe them, it's getting colder,
(hypnotic voice off)

here's my favorite quote:

“The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds… I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists,” - Indian geologist Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the UN-supported International Year of the Planet.
There are better quotes, but that gentleman complains about non-geologists winning the nobel,
as a geologist.

I'm skeptical because I look at squiggly lines all day as part of my job. The hocky stick was a
a couple of straight lines made up of all different kinds of data, ice cores, tree rings, thermometers
and satellite data. It's hard enough putting together data that was all acquired the same week,
but splicing a bunch of crep together that doesn't match known historical data points like the
medieval warming period told me its a bunch of spliced crep.

There are more priorities that we should be worrying about now, apart from all the financial
disasters we should be trying to get energy independence for the usa, using whatever technology
is available from drill drill drill to nukes. peak oil is the approaching really big problem, even if
prices go to $8 next month, it won't change how much oil is in the ground. Once the oil runs out we
see what real poverty looks like.

[I'm not sure how to do it, but I'd start with an import tax on oil. If the us energy industry isn't
protected we'll see that most of the alternative energy industry will be destroyed at the same time.
Better to keep prices somewhat high, $50/bbl, and keep pushing ahead to energy independance
and not use cheap oil to keep suckling at the tit of the foreign oil industry.]

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Fun with jetlag

I'm back in Italy and I'm having a lot of trouble with jetlag this trip.
I screwed up and slept a couple of hours thursday afternoon when I
arrived, then I couldn't sleep again until 6 am friday. I was guilty of
asleep at the office all day friday, luckily nothing of importance happened
and I safely made it home without getting myself run off. The really stupid
thing I did was I repeated the mistake last night too, then slept until 1 pm.

Now it's midnight on saturday night and I couldn't be more awake, I'm
stuck watching my crappy sky tv satellite. It's in black and white because
we have an ntsc tv and the analog signal is pal, I switched out the box for
an hd box thinking that hdmi should be the same all around the world, but
all I get is the top half of the screen, so I'm sticking with the analog signal
in black and white. 1000 channels of mostly nothing, with lots of history
channels and nat geo channels, but they are all repeating the same shows
from earlier in the evening. Sadly the only thing on that's interesting are
the dial-a-porn channels, where a model answers the phone and gradually
takes off her clothes. (I'm learning italian, I have to watch)

I can't imagine how they make money unless the guys calling are paying $100
per minute, because they are almost never talking on the phone. Oh well,
you know you're bored when you're drinking italian new wine out of a 3 liter
plastic jug watching italian porno in black and white, and the most interesting
thing to think of is their business plan.

Better than thinking of my business plan. Lou Minatti mentioned in a blog
post that oilfield service companies in houston are about to do big layoffs
according to a high placed relative of his. I understand why that will have
to happen to some extant, the big question will be will they cut to get ahead
of the problem to maintain or increase profitability, or will they just lop off
the bottom 10%. hmmm.

In 1991 they fired almost everyone (90% of staff) because the business
died when prices crashed back to $8/barrel, but they layoffs happened
in stages. In smaller downward dips like 1994, 1996 and 2007 they just
layed off the bottom 10%. In 1998 they tried a different tack and layed
off everyone above a certain seniority who weren't on a management track,
which in one way was more shocking than laying off everyone slowly, because
the guys you'd think would never leave were gone in a blink. Almost all got
hired back pretty quickly as contractors when it picked up again a couple months
later, but it was still a weird higher management decision that I hope they
don't repeat.

It all depends on demand, if demand drops too much too fast until all storage
and all tankers are full, it will go to $10 and all drilling not on deepwater rigs will
stop. The good news there will be a quicker rebound as the rest of the economy
comes back quicker, the bad news is that it will ensure $300 oil in 2 years because
drilling activity won't make it back in time.

oh, well, back to black and white tv.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Ayatollah sheep debate

Mark Steyn demonstrates how to totally destroy someone in a written debate
as he responds to a journalism professor that accused him of a hate crime:

To end where we came in, M J Murphy wrote: “I think you owe Dr. Miller an apology.” Au contraire, I think “Dr Miller” owes me and Oriana an apology. Since he decided to go to such kinky lengths to catch my eye, he has accused me of failing to provide a source for a quote: False. He's accused me of making up famous rulings of the Ayatollah: False. He's declared flat out that there is no such thing as a Khomeini "Blue Book": False. And people pay money to study "responsible journalism" with this guy? At least for his own ill-advised adventures in fact-checking, his unfortunate acolyte, M J Murphy of Toronto, isn't charging cash.

If I were celebrated toilet photographer Warren Kinsella or leading Canadian Internet Nazi Lucy Warman, I’d sue. But I’m not. Nor, despite a flying visit to the Falklands and a couple of wet weekends in Wales, have I ever been attracted to sheep-shagging. But I imagine it feels a bit like dealing with Messrs Miller, Murphy and the Law R Cool kids: No matter how often you roger them senseless, they keep on bleating. I wouldn’t have bothered with this response were it not for the fact that Professor Waggy-Finger traduced not me but a great and courageous lady who is no longer here to laugh her magnificent scoffing laugh in his face. Oriana Fallaci is a hundred times the man John Miller is. Read her interviews with Arafat or the Shah and ask yourself whether she needs any posthumous lessons in “journalistic ethics” from an unread parochial poseur. And, if you are considering a career in journalism, think about what you'd like to be looking back on in 40 years' time: Oriana's resume or Professor Miller's.

This was in response to an open letter from John Miller's Blog.

The whipping that Mark Steyn delivers is almost painful to watch, like the scene from the
movie Casino where the mobsters are beating Joe Pesci's brother to death. It's
amazing that someone can take that beating and still go to work as a professor of
journalism. Just go back to your farm, raise sheep but don't touch them. If you
touch them, look at the little blue book to know what to do.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Traveling around, home for thanksgiving

We've been traveling around the last few weeks, Milan, Vienna,
Bucharest, Athens and Madrid, and now we're in the usa for thanksgiving.
The security people at the Bologna airport know us by sight, which is always
a sign that I've been working too much

We have managed to do some sightseeing though, and I've tried to setup
meetings on thursdays so that I can take off friday and the weekend to
play tourist. So the travel in europe seems to be better than what you'd get
in south lousiana and texas.
Here we have the acropolis in
athens, which would be similar
to the gas station and restaurant
in port fourchon.

Below is a picture from Ploesti in Romania. Apparently a good
topic of conversation isn't "was the damage very bad from the
bombing campaigns carried out by the us army air corp in world
war 2?" Since every former axis city I've been to has buildings that
are in the guide books as "mostly destroyed during the 2nd world war,
but rebuilt to match the original 13th century construction", I find myself
guiltily quiet around locals when the topic of history comes up.

I was really curious
how old the smokestacks
in the refinery were, if they
were the same ones in the
famous b-25 raid picture,
but it's probably not a good
topic to bring up.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Good luck tomorrow america

It's 7 am here in Italy, ,just turning midnight back at home and I'm wishing I was back
there to vote.

From an email from John McCain straight to my work email address that didn't get stopped by the spam filter or filed in junk:

Throughout my years of service, I've been faced with challenges where I could have taken the easy way out and given up. But I'm an American and I never give up. Instead, I choose to show courage and stand up and fight for the country I love. Today, I am asking you to stand with me and to fight for our country's future.

Our country faces enormous challenges and our next president must be ready to lead on day one. My lifetime of experience has prepared me to lead our great nation. I'm prepared to bring solutions to our economic challenges, bring our troops home in victory and improve our nation's healthcare system.

Time and time again, my country has saved my life and I owe her more than she has ever owed me. I have chosen to show my gratitude through a life of service to our country and tomorrow, you will have a choice before you.
I humbly ask you to make the choice that will allow me to serve my country a little while longer by casting your vote to elect me as your next President of the United States.

go vote america, pull the lever for McPalin.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


(linked from mostly cajun)

Barack Obama discovers a leak under his sink, so he calls Joe the Plumber to come and fix it. Joe drives to Obama’s house, which is located in a very nice neighborhood where it’s obvious that all the residents make well over $250,000 per year. Joe arrives and takes his tools into the house. Joe is led to the room that contains the leaky pipe under a sink. Joe assesses the problem and tells Obama, who is standing near the door, that it’s an easy repair that will take less than 10 minutes.

Obama asks Joe how much it will cost. Joe immediately says, “$9,500.”

“$9,500?” Obama asks, stunned. “But you said it’s an easy repair!”

“Yes, but what I do is charge a lot more to my clients who make more than $250,000 per year so I can fix the plumbing of everybody who makes less than that for free,” explains Joe. “It’s always been my philosophy. As a matter of fact, I lobbied government to pass this philosophy as law, and it did pass earlier this year, so now all plumbers have to do business this way. It’s known as ‘Joe’s Fair Plumbing Act of 2008.’ Surprised you haven’t heard of it, senator.”

In spite of that, Obama tells Joe there’s no way he’s paying that much for a small plumbing repair, so Joe leaves. Obama spends the next hour flipping through the phone book looking for another plumber, but he finds that all other plumbing businesses listed have gone out of business. Not wanting to pay Joe’s price, Obama does nothing. The
leak under Obama’s sink goes without repair for the next several days. A week later the leak is so bad that Obama has had to put a bucket under the sink. The bucket fills up quickly and has to be emptied every hour, and there’s a risk that the room will flood, so Obama calls Joe and pleads with him to return. Joe goes back to Obama’s house, looks at the leaky pipe, and says “Let’s see – this will cost you about $21,000.”

“A few days ago you told me it would cost $9,500!” Obama quickly fires back.

Joe explains the reason for the dramatic increase. “Well, because of the ‘Joe’s Fair Plumbing Act,’ a lot of rich people are learning how to fix their own plumbing, so there are fewer of you paying for all the free plumbing I’m doing for the people who make less than $250,000. As a result, the rate I have to charge my wealthy paying customers rises every day. “Not only that, but for some reason the demand for plumbing work from the group of people who get it for free has skyrocketed, and there’s a long waiting list of those who need repairs. This has put a lot of my fellow plumbers out of business, and they’re not being replaced – nobody is going into the plumbing business because they know they won’t make any money. I’m hurting now too – all thanks to greedy rich people like you who won’t pay their fair share.”

Obama tries to straighten out the plumber: “Of course you’re hurting, Joe! Don’t you get it? If all the rich people learn how to fix their own plumbing and you refuse to charge the poorer people for your services, you’ll be broke, and then what will you do?”

Joe immediately replies, “Run for president, I guess.”

Friday, October 31, 2008

flashback 2004

Here's what I wrote this week back in 2004, one indication that the WOT
is going ok is I don't feel this negative anymore:

Kerry and the Dems will have to put up or shut up. They'll have to deal with reality in the present tense instead of using that weird verb tense that begins with "if bush hadn't stolen the election"... . Since Spanish has so many more verb tenses than english, we'll try it in spanish, "el indicativo anteganancia del ladron Bush".

Changing events from the past isn't possible in reality. We can look at the past to see what happened and what that might teach us about the future, but the past is past and is unchangeable. Any possible action starts at where we are now, like joining a game of Risk in the middle of an ongoing game. You don't get to reshuffle the cards and move the little plastic armies to where you wish them to be. Our armies are where they are, and the enemy is where he is. In Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea...some safe house in New York, wherever.

The newly elected democrats won't be able to say: "Bushstoletheelectionpipelineafganistan bloodforoilhaliburtonbushliedpeoplediedairnationalguarddaddysaudiinfluencecarlylegroup
bushisanidiotsuperevilgeniuscontrolledbycheneycontrolledbybigoil blaaaaaaaaaaaarghhh"
(I've never actually heard anyone say blaaaaaaaaarghhh, so maybe that should be outside the quotes) Maybe when they actually have to do something instead of just name-calling and criticizing there will actually be some cold assesment of reality and what needs to be done. Maybe they'll do everything right, and then we'll sing we are the world with the French and Germans in a perfectly democratic Irag. I can hope anyway, even though I think they'll pull out of Iraq and create a malaise in the United States that makes Jimmy Carter's presidency look like the happy happy fun times of yesteryear. Who knows though.

I would like to be a fly on the wall at the transition briefing where the Bush people have to explain reality to the Kerry people. Kerry guy: "So you're saying there's a group of people out there that don't care about discussion of gay marriage, in fact their first action after the establishment of the caliphate will be to cut the heads off of every gay person. Why that's appalling."

So I think a Kerry victory might provide me with some sweet sweet moments of I told you so. Few things better than that. Too bad about New York and Washington though, I really liked those places.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Political Spam

One of my sister's sent me a bunch of links showing why veterans should
support obama and not mccain. One of them is the IAVA congressional report
card that give's McCain a D and Obama a B+. The mudville gazette helpfully
edit's the list to include the candidate's party. To me the correlation is perfect,
demo's get b or a, republicans get c or below.

Here's the Ranking from the IAVA with the senator's Party included:

The same group attacks McCain voting against the gi bill.
here's what McCain said about the gi bill:

"When the Senate had considered its version of the war supplemental, McCain had argued, along with the White House and the Pentagon, that the new GI Bill, which got support from a veto-proof majority of Senators, would encourage service members to leave the military. He had offered a less generous counterproposal that would have given service members a much smaller credit for college and given better benefits to people who served longer. "
"With the addition of the transferability provisions sought by Senators Graham, Burr, myself and others to give service members the right to transfer earned G.I. Bill benefits to spouses and children, we will have achieved in offering vastly improved educational benefit while also offering incentives for continued service by the most capable, experienced NCO

Sunday, October 12, 2008


The deadline to send in my absentee ballot was last week and I
missed it. That was really stupid because I was thinking since
February that i need to get it done so I can vote against Hillary. It
turns out though that I would prefer Hillary to Obama, at least
I think I understand her blackened cruel soulthat would beam
down from washington with an unblinking red eye. But I could live
with that.

I can accept voting for Sauron if all she wants is some power so that
she can demonstrate that she was the smarter member of the clinton
royal family. Voting for Obama would be like voting for Gollum before
we get that brief glimpse at Smeagel's life at the beginning of the 3rd movie.
He's just some guy that will say or do anything to get the ring of power, and
we don't even know what kind of animal he is.

As much more clearly said by Mark Steyn:

But Obama is defined by his indefinability. When I pointed out to my Vermont gals that he lives in a swank pad that was part of some shady real estate deal with a convicted fraudster (Tony Rezko), that he entrusted his daughters' entire religious education to a neo-segregationist anti-American nut who preaches that the government created the AIDS virus to kill black people (Jeremiah Wright), that he attended fundraisers with a political patron who's an unrepentant terrorist proud of plotting to blow up young ladies just like them at a dance at the Fort Dix military base (William Ayers), when I pointed all this out, they looked at me as if I'd brought a baseball bat to a croquet match. Mere earthbound politicians are defined by their real estate deals and sleazy buddies, but Obama is defined only by his vibe. As his many admirers in France would say, he has a certain je ne sais quoi. And, if you try to pin down quo precisely, then they don't want to sais.
By disenfranchising myself I might be helping to elect Obama, which might have
some disastrous consequences down the road. Help me out please. Go cast a vote
for McCain next month, or if you are going to vote for Obama stay home and watch
the lord of the rings dvd's all in a row until the polls close. I think we'll be glad you

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Where's David Palmer when we need him.

Here in italy it apparently takes a note from the pope to get telephone
and cable tv setup. We've been trying for a month, but we're mostly just
going around in a circle, first we need a codice fiscale, then a copy of
the apartment contract that we can't seem to get from the owner, then the world's
slowest electrician has to come and hook everything up. I thought south america
was bad, but this place gives new meaning to 'manana'.

Luckily one of our dvd players has a dual power supply so that it works with
120 or 240 v, surprisingly it was the $40 dvd player from walmart that is very
flexible, my $500 sony dream machine system will need a transformer to work.
I do have some dvd's to watch now, I fired up the walmart player and I'm watching
"24" season 1 that I never saw on fox. The first one I saw was the 3rd season
and that was pretty good. I've been saving the first season for a rainy day.
It's raining.

On the show David Palmer was just told by his chief of staff that he's the most important
presidential candidate in generations. I wish someone like David Palmer was really
running for president, I'd vote for him. I really don't want Obama to win, and any
time I have expressed that at work the clear assumption is that I'm a racist hick.

It's not the color of Obama's skin that bothers me, it's that I don't agree with
anything he says or anything that he plans to do. I also tend to think that he
was sent by someone in the chicago machine, or sent by a diabolical marxist organization
that is bent on undermining a free and capitalist america or sent as a product of
an extremely liberal education that was then baked in an oven of an anti-american
preacher. All those ideas might be believable or laudable in some situations, but
I don't want them as part of the makeup of the president of the united states.

I'll try and stay hopeful even though I think Obama will win. Maybe it'll be
like 1992 when Clinton won even after I spent a good bit of time trying to convince
my coworkers to vote for Ross Perot, but in the end Clinton turned out to be not
as bad as expected. Except for the long term economy and the war against terror.
Oh well. I'll stay hopeful, and hope that David Palmer runs for election next time.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Future company mergers

From Atlas Shrugs, a list of future company mergers:

Watch for these consolidations later this year:

1. Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

2. Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.

3. 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood.

4. Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa.

5. FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.

6. Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.

7. Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.

8. Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!

And finally, ...

9. Victoria's Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new name: TittyTittyBangBang.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Breadlines R us

The house just voted down the bailout procedure and my stocks to
watch list on Yahoo is entirely red. Gah. One benefit of being in
Italy for the next great depression is that if there are breadlines the
bread here is yummy. Not that crummy bunny bread stuff for me.

If it gets that bad I'm sure we'll be shown the door pretty quick
though. It'll be "no bread for you", and out the door we go.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Black Swan Decade

I'm reading "The Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb, it's a pretty
fascinating look at the gaps in our knowledge when we think we're safe
because we're staying near the average in a non volatile market, but
really we've already driven off a cliff and the smooth sailing that we feel
is because the wheels aren't on a road. He's also got an essay in edge
that hits some key points that a lot of bankers should have read
about 2 years ago...

I've always wondered what this decade will be called, my old man simpson
voice always says it's the oughts, and I'll be able to grumble when I'm an old
man "that hurricane happened back in ought- five". Now I'm afraid that this
decade will turn out to be the black swan decade, where everything from
hurricanes and tsunamis to bank failures and assholes flying planes into buildings
has happened. Personally it was the best decade, but for world history purposes
it seems like one continuous pile of poo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hopeful panicking

We've been traveling for the past week while the double storms hit
back home, one the hurricane in galveston, the other the collapse
and possible resuscitation of the financial system. Watching events from
europe my face took on the appearance of several smileys from msn,
especially the one with teeth gritted and hand up in fear.

Hurricane Ike doesn't look like it was as bad as it could have been.
A little more severe and a little further west and galveston and south
houston would have been tostada. The mayor of Houston and Judge Ed
have things firmly under control and made adjustments to federal delivery
drops that made things better. (I think not perfect outcomes from the
feds is inevitable, it just demonstrates why most power should be at the state
and local levels)

The shitstorm in new york is even worse and left me bouncing from one foot
to another deciding if I should try and move whatever cash I have to euros
right away and sell every stock. Apparently I'm a good indicator for panic
because right at the point I was about to sell what stocks I have, everything
rebounded 10%, I'm lucky it takes me a couple of days of bouncing from foot
to foot to make a decision.

I'm in the hopefull panicking stage now. Maybe this bailout thing will work
and the government pledging it's full faith and credit for all this bad debt will
win the day. I feel more like I'm at a bar and I'm watching two drunks trying
to pay the tab. The first drunk is fairly shabby looking and hands over a beat up
nearly expired mastercard, the bartender runs it and it is declined. The second
drunk says " no problem, I got this one" and pulls and equally shabby looking creditcard
out and hands it to the bartender. If the bartender runs it, it might be declined
then he'll be short on his register. He does the safer thing and just takes a paper
imprint and sends the two drunks off into the night. The bar might never get paid
but at least he won't be short that night.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I think the NWS and government have been lax with this storm, trying not
to repeat the Rita evacuation. Now they'll be ramping up quickly this morning
to shrill, but it might be too late to evac all of east texas. They better put some
thought into this and evac starting with the coastal areas first and not stampeding
out the whole city.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yikes for Houston

If I were in Houston I'd be hauling ass out of there right now to someplace
that won't be without power over the weekend. The folks at weather underground
have added another plot to their repertoir, it is the ensemble model plot. I'm not
certain what that is, but it looks like they are initializing the gfdl model with
different initial conditions and and plotting the multiple runs. On the latest
plot there are two different clusters, one at south padre island and one at
galveston bay. What is really different about the plot is they are doing a
model verification on the same display by plotting the current hurricane positon
on 6 hour old models. It looks to me that the hurricane is trending more northward
and is following the northern cluster towards Houston.

If that trend continues tomorrow morning local time will be a different situation
with the first calls for evacuations. Better to be ready to leave at first light.
(our family policy was modified after hurricane Lily to say that we're not staying
for any hurricane, that looks like it might hit on the 3 day forcast. Just to remove
some of the decision making worrying.) I might foolishly evacuate sometime in the
future, but I don't want to sit and sweat with no lights or a/c for a week either.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Space-alien viewpoint of hurricane

Another great thing about google earth is the ability to turn
on weather and forecast layers. It's possible now to let GE run
and pretend to be an astronaut or space-alien looking down
on puny earthlings....then holy heck there's a big-assed hurricane
about to smack houston!

It's only a matter of time until we have near Real-time update of the
satellite imagery. mwa ha ha hahahha

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I tried to be a community organizer

Back in 1992 during the time I was laid off from the oilfield I reached a point
where I couldn't find an engineering job, and I had to go out and seek as Simon
and Garfunkel said "only workman's wages". One of the few jobs I applied for that
I actually got was working for ACORN. I responded to a classified ad and went
down to a storefront office off of tulane avenue (not a great part of the city). Since
I was the only white face in the place the lady interviewing me gave me the "he's
a crazy white boy" look, but offered me a job and told me to come back for a day's
training. Then I'd be going door to door registering voters.

My father heard what I had done and insisted I call them back and not take the
job. He was probably correct in assuming that the life expectancy of a white guy
going door to door in New Orleans' projects would be pretty low. Luckily the next
week after that my Air Nat'l Guard unit hired me as a temporary worker, and I
turned wrenches instead of trying to organize the community.

Monday, September 01, 2008

watching gustav go ashore

I've been watching Gustav all day with the radar loop playing on main
monitor and trying to learn how to use vmware on the external monitor
but making little progress. It looks like New Orleans dodged a bullet
and the storm is going ashore just west of port fourchon. In the past
few hours it seems like the storm has moved more WNW than NW, and it
will follow Hurricane Andrew's path straight up highway 90 to Lafayette.

It might be pretty bad for Grand Isle. Fourchon doesn't have much in the
way of permanent structures that aren't built up 15' off the ground. Grand
Isle is also built up, but the storm might just eat away all the sand that makes up
the island, all the buildings could be standing in 4' of seawater after the storm.
There's not much else for the storm to hit until Morgan City, and by the time
it reaches lafayette it won't be much more than a strong tropical storm.
(he says with crossed fingers)

Of course on the morning of Katrina the storm was passed and the nytimes
said that New orleans had dodged a bullet, so I'll wait a few more hours before
I stop worrying. The local stations are showing the industrial canal with the
water to the top of the steel wall on top of the levee. I always wondered about
that as a kid, if those steel walls would do anything...appears so.

updated at 17:21 local time- John Snell on channel 8 just made a good point,
the water is about 1 foot below the top of the levee and some water is spraying
over the top, he suggests that once the category of this hurricane is firmly established
it will make a good calibration point for where the levee system is right now.
If the levees will be close to overtopping every 3 years, then the levees need
to be upgraded.
John Snell on channe

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Obama on WDSU

The weathernerd linked to a site that is showing streams of all
the tv stations in new orleans. Pretty cool stuff, and I was lucky enough
to tune into channel 6 when Barrack Obama called into the show. He mumbled
through some platitudes about how Fema and the state appear to be working well
together, then he got some direct questions from Margeret Orr asking if he would

- category 5 levee protection
- wetlands restoration

he said he would support both and he has supported both and thinks we
should have been further along in wetlands restoration. So maybe an obama
win would be better for Louisiana. Wetlands restoration would help the flood
protection for the west bank, and restoring the MRGO would help chalmette,
but the only thing to do for the east bank is higher stronger levees.

I watched Katrina from outside the country and before the storm the government
made all the noises of cooperation, supposedly with boats and airboats prepositioned,
but in the end the coast guard and local and state boats did most of the rescuing.
The main difference I'm seeing this time is that the evacuation is mostly finished a day
and a half before the storm, and they are searching for people who haven't evacuated
and need help. During Katrina the evacuation was just getting started at this point,
so much better performance this time. I think it is due to proactivity from the state,
and a local government which is what is supposed to happen.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kind of worried

If I put the candidates in terms of who they look like from the entertainment
industry, I'm kind of worried. We've got an old guy with a younger hottie.
They've got will smith and an old guy, but with laser guns. It might be kind of
hard to win this battle, because tj hooker doesn't have laser guns. Maybe Mccain
does though. hmmm.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gustav pointed north, Bobby Jindal responds

I noticed this morning that most of the models now have Gustav
pointing towards southeast louisiana, and the scatter is a lot less, as
if the answer is converging. The times picayune has a response from
Bobby Jindal, with his plan for evacuation being activated. He's not waiting
for mayor nagin to maybe evacuate people sometime next monday, or
for Fema to swoop in on magic carpets and rescue everyone after the storm.

If the storm continues to threaten the state, Jindal would declare a state emergency and request a federally declared emergency on Thursday. Those declarations trigger regulatory and financing programs to help the government deal with a disaster.

The governor emphasized that all the plans are tentative based on the direction of the storm and that the steps for evacuation may not be necessary.

If the storm continues to head toward Louisiana, the governor on Thursday would exercise state contracts for up to 700 buses to assist with evacuations.

Governor Jindal is taking steps now when there is time available to do something
instead of using the previous system of waiting and hoping.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe Biden?

Obama just picked Joe Biden for his VP and I really can't see
why he'd pick him. Biden has already been given the taste test
and rejected by voters a few times. The google test looks just as
bad, if you type "joe biden" into the google toolbar then type almost
any other letter, the type-ahead will pop up something pretty negative,
from "joe biden plagiarize" to "joe biden bullshit".

We're in bergen norway now, while all the hopeful democrats are still
in their beds with dreams of Al Gore still in their heads, I've already seen
the announcement that bodes ill for demos, and almost guarantees mccain
will win. Thanks Obama.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ogre City

It's a rainy Sunday night here in Ravenna with accompanying thunderstorm
that really rattles the tiles on the roof. We managed to accomplish nothing this
weekend, I was so tired from work that I just sat around lazily most of the time
and we watched some episodes of "Entourage" on iTunes.

We did manage to walk around some on Saturday and we went into a church that I hadn't been
into before, St John the Evangelist. It's from the early 5th century and I'm sure it
was very nice before we blew it to heck during WWII. It's been rebuilt and some of the
mosaic re-pieced together, but the redone mosaics don't look too terrific to me at least not
when compared to San Vitale.

In Ravenna history is literally layered on top of history, with Roman ruins, then byzantine,
then very little happening during the medieval period, then plenty of "new" stuff from
the 13th century onwards. A lot of the old quarter seems to be from the past 400 years
or so. The roman ruins are sunk in the muck or buried by river silt, the only byzantine ruins
left are the churches, so the centro storico is really around the same age as Cartagena, with
a few ancient buildings thrown in.

There's also lots of WWII history here, next weekend we have to evacuate for a day because
an unexploded bomb was found about 3 blocks from here during some construction. So maybe
we'll get outside of town and see some different history. I need to remember to keep my history
questions on the ancient history, when I see recent bomb damage that was usually caused by
the US. and by Nazi's hiding in churches.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The problem with making Caesar an outlaw

The crazy people on the left want to hold "Nuremberg style" trials
for Bush administration officials. This is nuts, but it is also stupid.

I'm in Italy now and the first book I read here is a history of the roman
empire, from Republic to the fall the empire. In the section on Julius Caesar,
it's easy to see that what might have driven him to revolt and becoming
emperor was he had basically no choice. If he gave up official power as proconsul,
he was to be tried as a common criminal. Rather than risk that, he chose the other
option of seizing total power

So, if you're a lefty nut and you think Bushhitler is truly evil, then you should
keep your stupid mouth shut until Obama is in office, otherwise you are nuts, stupid and

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Swiftboating for windpower

T. Bones Pickens has an interview in the Ny times about his plan
to secure energy independance for the country using windpower. I don't
know if his plan could work or not, but it's good to start heading in a direction
instead of just arm flailing towards increasing imported oil and peak oil.

The best passage of the interview comes during a political question, Pickens
helped finance the Swiftboat Veterans, and the reporter doesn't even know what
the swiftboat veterans said, and that they just said the truth!
[times questions in bold]

You helped re-elect Bush in ’04 when you gave $3 million to the Swift Boat campaign to discredit John Kerry’s Vietnam service. Do you regret your involvement? Why would I?

Because it’s such an ugly chapter in American political history. Oh, I see. Well, it was true. Everything that went into those ads was the truth.

Really? I thought it was all invented. I never did anything dishonest.

A good contrast on leadership is to compare John McCain versus John Kerry.
Kerry got 3 purple heats for Frank Burns type wounds, then left his men that he
was leading and went home to stab those men in the back. John McCain stayed in
hell for more torture even though the North Vietnamese would have released him for
the propaganda benefit. Lucky for Obama he hasn't faced any decisions like those, but
judging by how quickly he throws people under the bus that make him look bad I can't
image the Hanoi Hilton's door would have hit him on the ass on his way out.

[of course if I had been in Vietnam, I'd probably have used whatever rules possible to get
out, but then I'd never run for president either]

Thursday, July 31, 2008

the link of horror

Lileks has a pretty good bleat today, reminiscing about 80's music videos like
"Take me on" and "money for nothing". It hit a nerve because I'm of the age
that I remember the show "nightflight", where they played an entire hour of
videos - straight! Then a year or so later Mtv started when I was a freshman
in high school, and I would go into zombie attention fixed mode whenever I got
to see it because we didn't have cable at home those years. So someone starts
talking about early videos and my ears perk up like a dog when someone mentions

Unfortunately, Lileks also describes a nightmare he had, and he wrote down a scary
phrase from the dream, then used his mac to speech synthesize the ghostly voice.
(another 80's trick, 'yeah, someday the computers will talk..."shall we play a game?".)
Unfortunately, the apartment we're in is the attic of a 600 year old house, and the
boooo factor is already off the charts, so I really can't click that link and listen to a
scary voice. It's pitch black in here, if the voice is really scary I'll have to face the
embarrassment of carrying my laptop around like a flashlight so that I don't have to
walk in the dark to a light switch.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bloglink editing

I look at the links on my sidebar and I feel that same shame of undone labor
that you feel when you look outside and it's 96 degrees and the grass hasn't been
cut in 3 weeks. If you wait until it's cooler than you run the risk of cutting the
grass in the dark with all the risk of cutting off a sprinkler head or stepping on
a hidden snake (a big phobia of mine), so you drink a half quart of gatorade and
head out into the miasmic louisiana humidity.

It always seems easiest to weedeat first, just like when weedeaters first came
out and my dad bought one, it was possible to magically cut down all the weeds
that grew along the fenceline and around the shed without having to reach my hands
into any potential, you guessed it, snake hiding places. So I'll weedeat first by adding
some new links that I tend to read more nowadays. There's Bob the Onscreen scientist
that sometimes sounds like Bill Gates and other days sounds like St. Paul. The Hobo-
who is always funny and shocking.

The blogs that I read a lot but never linked to like ace of spades, confederate yankee
and blackfive, I need to link to because I keep losing my bookmarks and I want to
be able to have a link from whatever computer I'm on. Dr Sanity is always fantastic
mopping the floor with the cognitve dissonance of liberals.

For anyone in the oil industry, the oil drum is required reading, and for anyone who
suspects that global warming is a crock, climate audit has the data.

The comics Achewood and XKCD are both hilarious at times and other times strange, instead of the normal gausian funniness of Dilbert, those two comics have a definite skew. My favorite xkcd is this one, I thought that I invented that.

I went to cut out a few links and there really isn't much to cut. If I were charged per
link I'd cut like a madman, but since they're free I left the memorial link to Acidman,
and the link to phil carter even though he's off blogging and working on Obama's campaign.
Lou Minatti just gave up blogging because he has issues, but I'm sure he'll be back and
hopefully keeping the link will send some google love that might help him out.
Big picture small office was a fantastic blog by a person at a consumer products corporation,
but now he's got a password on the blog after he retired, so I guess he's off the list.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thanks for your support Washington Post

I was reading an article about John Edwards on the
Huffington post (I just read it for the naked pictures, really)
and I noticed a banner from google adds that says "violence
in Iraq kills 10 soldiers" read whole story
So I click over there to the story and it is a story from October 2006.
I think that says something pretty negative about the huffington post
that the wp would make a targeted ad that says what the people there
are expecting to see. It doesn't put the washington post in too good of
a light either.

It's as if the press is still celebrating the happy days of 2006
when they were winning elections and hundreds of soldiers per month
were getting shot. Like the old ad for a stock broker, where a guy
is in his living room watching cnbc show the dow hit 12000, then he
presses rewind, he wasjust watching a video of January 2000 CNBC
reliving happier days.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In fashion in Italy

We're in Italy now, we've been here a week and I still feel jet-lagged.
I have to say that was one of the worst airplane trips ever, only beaten out
by the 10 hour diarrhea flight from hell way back in 2000, when I flew
from bogota to germany and spent 9 out of 10 hours on the plane in the
bathroom. I've never had so many germans angry at me, I felt like the
Jewish guy at a nazi rally. [der fatten guy es en der batroom again]

This trip was crappy purely due to poor service from continental. We were
the only suckers with y class tickets on the plane not in first class, and we still got
wrong information from everyone we spoke with. I called their international line
and confirmed seat assignments and tickets on both legs of the trip, when we
arrived in Paris we didn't have a confirmed seat on the air france flight and we
were on standby. Air France did give great service and get us on the flight, so in
the end things worked out, it was just exhausting.

Ravenna is super crowded now. It is now the high season for tourists visiting the
churches here and the beach at Rimini. The quiet little town I first came to 2 months
ago is now packed with beautiful people and buses of icon gawking american tourists.

[here's the plaza de popalo looking
away from the stage]

We even had a fashion show last night. The plaza de populo was filled with a runway
and lots of chairs, while beautifully dressed people circled anxiously waiting to see if their
designs would be accepted by the masses of walmart shoppers. Or maybe they didn't care
if anyone bought anything, who knows. We got to watch them do a sound check then
later on at night we watched the show. I videotaped most of it, even when the male models
came out, I just shot them as part of a wide shot. Yes, it was just a coincidence that all
the male models were panned back while the lingerie models were shot zoomed until the
sony camera was making a clicking noise that said "I can't zoom any more, perv".

[a picture of the mic check with
the models practicing walking down
the runway.]

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rabbits, coyotes and an import tax on oil

Having worked in the
oilfield since 1991, I tend
to be a pessimist about the
price of oil, meaning I worry
that it will go down. Since I
also drive a car and eat I worry
that it will keep going up as
well. It's a conundrum that
will likely be solved shortly
by the market, as previous oil price
spikes have been followed by
crashes for the past 150 years (see, The Prize, by Daniel Yergin).

One way to model the price of oil over time is as a differential equation, with
consumers chasing oil. The above chart models a similar system of coyotes
and rabbits. (the link goes to the University of toledo, thanks) As the rabbit
population grows, the coyote population grows, then
the rabbit population crashes, soon followed by the coyote population. The price
of oil has followed this dynamic for the past 30 years, as more consumers join the
market, the price goes up, then the economy cools and the oil industry crashes into
dust. The points on the chart with high rabbit population are equivalent to when the living
for the consumer is easy, the price of oil is low and oil companies and service companies
are laying off engineers by the dozens. When the rabbit population is low are the oil industries
fat times, it is easy to change jobs, day rates are soaring and things are booming, baby!

[before 30 years ago the shut-in production of the texas oilfields helped to damp out
a lot of the wild spikes, now there is very little shut in production even in SA. To increase
production we have to drill. ]

These cycles will continue until the LAST CYCLE, where we'll pass peak production and consumption will always be higher than production with ever increasing prices. I don't think we're at the last cycle yet, it is reasonably likely that the slowing economy will decrease demand, decreasing demand not just for oil but for crap from China, which will double whammy the price of oil back down to the $40 dollar range. By this time next year we'll see people with H3's filling up for $30 again.

Suggested Solution:
I'd like to suggest some coyote control right now. There should be an import tax for the US
to artificially support the price of oil at around $80, low enough that it might never have any
effect whatsoever, high enough that if there is a crash than all the expensive projects in the
deepwater GOM, oil shale, etc can have a high enough guaranteed price to continue. We'll
protect some US industry, as well as the new alternative energy industry, and keep the US
on the path to improve it's energy future, not let it backslide back to cheap oil.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Haditha was an Al queda operation

One of the few things I've accomplished with this blog, apart from
keeping notes on what's going on in my life, was when I pointed out
a photo
on the London Times was smearing the Marines involved in
the Haditha incident, a photo which showed a row of dead people executed
by insurgents was included in a story about the Haditha Marines implying
that the civilians killed were executed against a wall. Since that was the
one time my readership spiked above one (Hi Bro!), I've followed the Haditha
story closely.

Allah now links to a story that supports even better the Marines' version
of events, the Haditha attack was planned by AQ to take place from amongst
civilians. Then a followup disinformation campaign by the insurgents that
was accepted by the gullible press changed this incident from unfortunate
collateral damage that occured while the Marines assaulted a house to a massacre.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Goodbye Lima

We're in Lima to continue the handover with the
guy that's replacing me in my current job. We came
a day early to try and do some tourist stuff, but to go
and see machu pichu really takes at least 3 days which means
we'll have to be satisfied with seeing it on the national geographic

We did go see the magic fountain park here which is pretty nice.
It would be more fun if it was hot, but the weather here is pretty
cold due to the humboldt current coming up from antartica, so it is
cold like New Orleans is in the winter, humid and cold. That feels a lot
worse than the dryer cold you feel in Bogota, and it is certainly too
cold to frolic in fountains.

The main fountains are pretty nice, one is the tallest in the world
apparently, and they do dancing air powered fountains like the bellagio
in vegas. The different thing they do is a light show with lasers and
a projection on the mist from the fountains that is pretty cool.

We could do that at the office, show up with a mist machine and a projector
at the client's office and project emotional presentations about drilling
on the mist. Give them a quick "sorry about the mess" and scoot out with
an emotion driven sale.

We're staying on the coast in Miraflores
which has some nice views. The people at
the Marriott were super nice after we moved
here from Los Delfines. (supposedly a nice
hotel but really just expensive with dolphins.
they gave us a crappy smelly room, then when
we tried to leave early they wanted to charge us
half a day.) Here's some negative googlejuice:
Los Delfines Lima suck, los delfines Lima suck.

View from
the Marriott
looking down the
coast to the

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dancing with Death

Bob the On-Screen Scientist recently wrote some stories about brushes with
that he's had. I'm not as good a writer as he is, but I have had a
few near misses that if they had gone slightly differently I could have been
squished, broken or splattered.

The most recent was a near car wreck we had on I-10 back in 2004,
and it was one of the first things I blogged about. If it hadn't been for
the company's defensive driving training that is manic about looking in
the mirror when braking, we would have been the white part of a tractor-
trailor oreo.

I've had some near misses working on oil rigs over 15 years. It is much safer
working on the rigs today, when I started in 1991 there was still a macho attitude
that we had to do dangerous things rather than ask the roughnecks that worked
up in the derrick to do them for us. Now safety programs amongst the rig crews
enforce pussification for them as well, and something that is clearly dangerous
can be called dangerous.

For our equipment to work we need several sensors installed on the rig floor
and up in the derrick. Since one of the sensors costs around $2k and can be
destroyed by over-torqueing, it was company policy that we had to ride up on
air hoists to install them (nothing was more important than safety, except $2000).
The rig hands go up in the derrick on a daily basis, but I typically went up in the
derrick every two or three months, which meant that I was never really good at
it and in the few dozen times I did it I was scared every time.

One time around 1995 I was sent out with an Indian trainee. I did what was
normal for my position, I asked the trainee to go up in the derrick and install
the sensor, but he said [indian accent on] "oh no, that would be very dangerous and
I don't want to do it" [IA off]. I was stuck in the intermediate position of not wanting
to call him a pussy to get him to do it, but not wanting go up in the derrick. Finally
I said "fine, I'll do it", and stomped off to put on a riding harness.

One way to get up in the derrick is a ladder that goes up to the monkeyboard where
the derrickman works to rack drillpipe. The other way to go up in the derrick is a riding
harness, which is a belt with a small wooden chair to sit on, or the safer versions with
a belt and loops around the thighs and shoulders connected to a wire rope via a big
d-ring. The cable is picked up and lowered by a small air hoist on the rig floor, and it
runs over a sheave in the derrick. The highly trained operator is whichever roughneck
is not busy doing something else, usually the newest guy.

On that particular rig, the standpipe where I had to install the sensor was outside the
derrick, so I would have to go up 90 ft or so, climb out to the outside of the derrick then
be lowered down to the place to install the sensor. So I had the brilliant idea that instead
of carrying the connector cable with me, they could lower me down to the rig floor, I'd pick
up just the end I needed and quickly zoom back up to the top. done.

Everything went ok until I climbed outside the derrick and was lowered down. The cable
hooked on something, so even though more cable was paying out, I was sitting still while
a loop of cable was quickly growing in front of my eyes. I was screaming "whoa" and waving
my arms, then I tried "fucking whoa" and the roughneck stopped the airhoist. I could see
the loop was at least 10 feet of loose cable, and I had enough time to wonder if the leg loops
would hold me when I fell or if I would fall hard enough to squirt out like a watermelon seed
from my restraints, then fall the other 60 feet to the rig floor. Whatever was holding the cable
up stopped holding it, and the loop of cable was free. I started to fall and I could hear a high pitched girly scream coming from somewhere that ended with a "woomph" when I hit the
end of the cable. I swung around for a second then the roughneck started to lower me again.
Still alive!

Now I had to face my stupid idea. The outside of the derrick isn't vertical it's sloping outward
to it's base. I thought I could push off and sort of rappel down, but falling had pulled up the
harness so that I really couldn't push with my legs. So I basically crawled down the face
of the derrick, like an inept spiderman, almost hanging up a couple more times.

I got down and was exhausted. My Indian trainee said [indian accent on] "Joe, that
was very harrowing". [IA off]

Friday, May 16, 2008

Crazy Atoms

One of the advantages of shifting back into fucked up career mode
is that I have more time to read weblogs. Since lately I'm spending
a lot more time waiting while a slow-ass scroll bar inches across the
screen, rather than proactively functionalizing a team enhancing
flowchart, I can surf around the web and read whatever crap that
doesn't flash up a nsfw picture.

One of the funniest is MadAtoms, which appears to be made up of
struggling actors and writers, and almost every post can cause a
cappuchino out the nose moment. [best post: I Would Do Anything for Love
…But No Way In Hell Can I Do That

Another good weblog that is pretty much nsfw is hobo-stripper.
When I was single I spent almost all my money on strippers, the rest
I wasted. So a weblog about a stripper/hobo/goddess is always interesting to me.

I found and lost a website where an artist is drawing cartoons describing peoples
dreams that readers submit. I spent several moments googling it, and I can't find it
so now I'm wondering if I dreamt it. I wasted an hour earlier in the week while I down
loaded some software reading a couple of years of comics drawn based on peoples
dreams, and it was fantastically accurate. All the dreams I've had this trip are
too weird to post in public, so I think I won't send any of my dreams when I find that
link again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Solar power

Rand Simberg has an interesting article on solar power
being generated by a new technique by a company called
Sunrgi. I have some doubts, here's what i commented:

my bet is that the sunrgi system is vaporware.

I took a solar installation class about 7 years ago and someone in the class asked why concentrators weren't used to focus sunlight on the pv panels. The instructor said that the thermal characteristic of solar cells gives higher resistance at higher temperatures, and you really want to do everything you can during the design phase to keep the array cool.
I think this would be a low efficiency pv with some solar thermal mixed in. Since they specifically mention their cooling system extends cell life, they are probably (rightly) worried that the higher temp will degrade the cells. The economics of pv depends on the panels lasting 30 years, if you have to disassemble an array with a bunch of lenses on top every 5 years and replace the modules, it's not going to be cheap. [pv cost/hr = (equipment + installation)/ (# of hours the system will work) + maintenance] (it works like an oil well, you spend $20k to build a system, it give you 5 hours of full power per day for 30 years]. eg, for a 2KW pv that cost $20k over 30 years = $.18/kWh.

of course I hope their product is perfect and I can stick a 4 kw plant in my backyard in 5 years for $30k.


The main problems with PV are still the same ones that it has always
had, it is really expensive to generate a lot of electricity and it's really expensive to store electricity. If you want 500 watts available 24 hours you can do that
for $10000, but if you want 4000 watts available 24 hours, then you
need to cover a lot of space with pv, and store it somewhere. As the
batteries scale up, things get expensive. It's too expensive to run A/C with PV.

The best way to do solar power is look at the loads first, use gas for
thermal loads, use fluorescents for lighting and get rid of thief loads
like instant on tv's and vcrs. Turn off everything at the power strip
when not in use. Now that you've improved things by 5%, tackle the
real problem, which is Air conditioning. If you live in the mountains
or in the northeast, you're done, size the panels for your reduced electric
load and use a line-tie system. If you're in the southeast, look at a
groundcoupled heatpump, or go back to the ceiling fans on the front
porch technique.

What is really going to drive this revolution is extremely high power costs.
People aren't like oil companies that see an 8% return as good deal, people
want instant certain payback, and that will only happen when pv is cheaper
than oil with a repayment cost in just a couple of years, not 22. Plug in hybrids
will be another driver, when people can use a huge battery pack and charge it
from the roof, that'll make things change.

If the price of oil can stay high for another 5 years, then the US will be radically
different at the end of that time power-wise. The more likely outcome will be
that the economy will continue to slow, we'll stop buying plastic chinese crap, then
they'll slow down, and the price of oil will head back to 12 dollars, resetting the
system again at 1980.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

In Italy only the pizza can hear you scream

I'm in Italy, and if everything goes ok we'll move over here
in a month or so. If everything doesn't go ok I'll finally get a chance
to demonstrate my entrepreneurial skills cleaning windshields on highway
59 in sugarland. My previous assignment is ending, and I don't think I'll get
any tropies for the job I did, not even a participation trophy. Oh well.

It's always funny how the jobs that you really work at aren't the ones
where you're recognized as doing a lot of work. It's possible to skate
through a whole year, but really nail one presentation where a boss that
matters is there and suddenly you're a genius, or you work dog hard traveling
all over the world doing shit that's not part of your job, and suddenly you're
happy to stay on doing the job of dishwasher.

The sadness of having to kill my dog, and being away from my family and
the last job ending on such a low note has built up all week. Now I'm holed
up in my hotel room drinking kieffer brau, which was the cheapest beer that
the grocery store sold and faced with the realization that I bought a six pack
of beer when a suitcase was called for.

Oh woe betide the country that doesn't sell oversized easy to carry boxes with 18, 24 or 36 beers! They shalt not dwell in drunkland nor pass out with the tv at full volume,
sleeping until the cleaning lady knocks to see if the crazy gringo croaked.
(and that's just after 3 beers, just think what crap I'll write when I'm wound up.
my mouse needs a breathalyser for later)

The food here in Ravenna seems to alternate between fantastic and pizza.
Since I keep screwing up and not arriving from work before everything closes,
pizza seems to be the only option every night. It's good pizza, it's just I seem
to be eating an awful lot of it. I did have some super fantastic gnoche and
insalata de pollo in the plaza di popolo earlier in the week, but I tried to repeat
that today and they had already closed at 2:30 pm. doh!

It is nice to be someplace that is extremely secure and I can just wander around
half lost. If you wander around half lost in bogota you are asking to be taken
for a paseo millionario. Here everyone is so old, I'm pretty confident I could take
them using breadsticks as weapons.

Here is a typical Ravenna street
scene, where I am one of the few
pedestrians and everyone else
has a bike. Apparently there are
free bikes for use here, but I don't
know if those are just random bikes
in racks or specific racks, and I don't
know enough italian to ask.

I don't want some old guy with a
breadstick chasing after me as
I ride off on his bike, so I'm sticking
with walking so far.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Paz sin fronteras

Today in colombia is the
Peace without frontiers concert
taking place up in cucata (sp?)
on the bridge that connects
colombia and venezuela.

They are simulcasting the concert
here in bogota on big plasma screens
in different locations, one is
a few blocks from the house
at park 93. We were just taking
the dog for a walk when we
heard music and walked over
to see what was happening.

The park was just filling up when
we got there and we watched a
few minutes, but the dog wanted
to go home. She used her mental
superpower to force us to leave and take her back to her bed.

It looked like a good concert but I'm still not sold on saying "quiero
la paz" or "paz sin fronteras". I think that saying you want peace tends
to make bullies think you are a target, whether those bullies are
los farc, chavez or osama bin laden. I think it's better to say "I want
to live in peace after all those who wish me harm are dead, in prison or
have decided to change their ways "

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Melonhead speaks

I'm watching a press conference with melonhead from venezuela
and Correa from Ecuador. I can barely stand to watch them speak,
it's like correa esta chupando el pene de chavez. It's supposed to be
a press conference, but the press is just sitting there watching melonhead
jabber his jaws.

Chavez is telling a story about how colombian army and police captured
some farc guy in venezuela, Correa doesn't know how to make his face look,
he can't decide if he should smile or look worried. He's out of his depth.

Something worrying is that chavez is now saying that he captured 300
paramilitaries in caracas, I didn't understand exactly when, but he could
easily take something like that as a reason for war. In the general fiction
of Chavez, Urribe is controlling the paramilitaries.

They've tagged again and Correa is telling a different story about when
a different Colombian patrol was in ecuador. Chavez says, "Rafael called
me and said you have better contacts with the farc, why don't you tell
them to attack this patrol"....they are betrayed by their own words,
Chavez is a friend of the farc, the farc is a bunch of murdering bastards,
ergo, chavez is a murdering bastard too.

My preference would be that president bush would fly a squadron of F-15's
down to Bogota, that would cool things down. I imagine that the US
is watching events and hoping Chavez is stupid enough to attack. The
air force will mop the floors with the Venezuelan Air force, and they
can drop a bomb on chavez while they are flying by caracas.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Chavez es un hijo de puta

Chavez is talking
about war with
colombia after
the colombian
air force blew up
one of Chavez's
FARC buddies;
Raoul Reyes.

I have a lot of
venezuelen friends,
so I hope that
chavez understands
that war with
colombia would mean war with the US. I think we'd see the
difference between the airforce trying to project power into
the middle east and B-52's within 2 or 3 flight hours range from
barkesdale AFB.

Chavez has pulled out his ambassador and is talking about
closing the border, the 7pm news shows traffic still flowing at
the border crossing in Arauca. Chavez threatened war saying that
if Colombia attacked las farc across the venezuelen border like
they did to kill Reyes across the ecuadoran border there would
be war. The news here is taking that like Chavez is on the side
of los FARC and there is a real risk of war.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama could be much tougher than bush

I read over on Micheal Totten's blog that Obama's father was a muslim and that
supposedly makes obama a muslim too.

Since Obama will probably be seen as an apostate of islam he'll probably turn out to be much tougher than bush on the islamofacists. I'm guessing that if he gets elected some radical mullah will quickly declare that obama has to be killed because he has left his father's religion and is apostate...and the penalty is death.
(or is it chocolate cake?)

After the first couple of attempts on his life, Obama will get the message. You don't negotiate with crazy people. Or maybe just Obama telling the islamofacists a cool pickup line will turn them all into obamamaniacs ("yeah baby, you're the one you've been waiting for" said obama as ahmadinijads beard began to quiver with nervous anticipation. Queue the saxaphone music.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Better screwed than rude

Mark Steyn has a great essay today, here's the denoument:

Our heroes pursue phantoms as the world transforms. Is sharia, polygamy, routine first-cousin marriage in the interests of Canada or Britain or Europe? Oh, dear, even to raise the subject is to tiptoe into all kinds of uncomfortable terrain for the multicultural mindset. It's easier just to look the other way, or go Nazi-hunting in the men's room. Nobody wants to be unpleasant, or judgmental, do they? What was it they said in the Cold War? Better dead than red. We're not like that anymore. Better screwed than rude.

Go read the whole thing...

Lileks was on fire this morning too, fisking some comments called into a radio show saying
why they supported obama:

The replies were rather indistinct. He would end the division and bring us together by encouraging us all to talk about common problems, after which we would compromise. He will give us hope by giving us hope: for many, the appeal has the magical perfect logic of a tautology.
But compromise is impossible when you have a fundamental differences about the proper way to solve a problem. I believe we can achieve a fair society by taking away your house and giving it to someone else. I disagree. It is my house....

...If he wins, I do look forward to dissenting; since it’s been established as the highest form of patriotism, I expect my arguments will be met with grave respect. Shhhh! He’s dissenting.
To me, Obama sounds like the "migger" character of Chris Rock's old hbo show. Chris did a spoof of "The legend of bagger vance" where he'd walk through a neighborhood, wave his hand and magically fix all the problems.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Down the islands

The local guys were nice enough to take me out on a client
boondoggle out to one of the islands northwest of port of spain
where there are lots of nice houses along the shore. It was a
nice trip, and with a careful balancing of rum and cokes and
heinekens I managed to stay mostly buzzed most of the day.

Since I got here earlier in the month I've been very interested
in getting out to see that part of the island. My father served here
in the US Navy in a seebee unit back in the 50's at the base that the
Navy inherited from the British as part of the lend-lease deal.

I've heard about trinidad all my life. Most of the stories involve
"the natives", that when I was young I pictured them as National
Geographic natives, but I think a better term for them would be
"locals". People were much less politically correct 25 years ago when
I heard these stories.

The dock where we left for the islands was part of the old Navy
base at a part of the island called chaguarams. I tried to pick out
details from stories I've heard several
times: the seaplane ramp where my dad and his buddies caught an
800 pound shark using a reel of 1/8" cable and a giant steel hook with
a mullet on it. They dragged the shark up the ramp using a tug for
the seaplane, then let the locals cut it into 30 pound bloody chunks then
ride off with their shark meat on their bicycles. I've heard the road
out to chaguaramas described, since trinidad is where my father learned
how to drive. Now it's mostly suburbs stretching almost to the gates of
the base, then it was just a mangrove swamp with a one lane road where my
dad got run off the road into the swamp by a taxi driver from P.O.S.. My
dad got his revenge when he was driving a low-boy trailer carrying a bulldozer,
he didn't yield or slow down and ran that same taxi out into the muck of the

I saw the old buildings where my dad must have worked, since the architecture
is clearly 1940's government drab. The buildings on the base are some of the
best-looking on the island, which doesn't say much for the island. Now much
of the docks area is covered by a marina filled with some damn nice
boats, and the old base buildings are taken up by the trinidad military.

The house we went to was fairly nice and it looks recently built. I told
my dad on the phone where I was going, and he said he'd been out to
these islands, previously all the houses on the islands were part of the
base area. He went to the atlantic side of the island, but to get there they
couldn't take a small rowboat through the dragons mouth, they had to
carry the boat over the hills to the north coast, then row out to the island
All that just to drink some beer and fish. Much easier trip now.