Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dominos of Doom

Reading Zerohedge the past couple of years it's easy to see DOOM
approaching. Now DOOM really seems to be just weeks or months away
for the Euro, probably pretty close for US banks as well, one thing
seems really obvious to me. All credit default swaps should be
cancelled and they should be made illegal.

Banks buy cds' to hedge against losses, but really they just make an
entangled alliance of risk. Banks think they are hedged, so there
is no risk and they can be even more leveraged. When one domino falls
they are all going to blow up like the scene in Finding Nemo, where a
falling torpedo sets off all the mines around the submarine that Nemo
and Dory are hiding in. boom.

Instead of hedging the risk the cds' are just propagating the risk
around the world, and who knows how much of it there is. why they
weren't outlawed after 2008 made me lose the little bit of faith
I had in the congress.

If the OWS people want to protest something concrete they should be
demanding the end to TBTF, and CDS' instead of just demanding cheap

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs bought me a car

When I got to use the mechanincal engineering department's Mac SE's
back in 1988, I was amazed, compared to the vt100 terminals or
DOS box's we had it was beamed in from another world. My parents asked
me what computer to buy in 1998 and I said buy an iMac. Tricky to use
dialup on that, but my young relatives were able to create creepy
speeches using the speech synthesizer. Around 2002/2003 I was sitting in
a cubicle in houston listening to music playing from the adjacent
cubicle, and it never repeated. over days and of music, it was
always different. I finally went around the corner and asked how
are you doing that? and my neighbor showed me his iPod. I saw that
and immediately looked up aapl stock and saw that it had almost as
much cash as market cap. I used the only gambling money I had, which
was the remains of my dot-bomb account on etrade and bought 2k worth
of aapl.

If I had kept more of it longer or bought more I could have been rich, instead
i made enough to buy a car. I'll give myself credit that I can recognize genius when I see something like an ipod for the first time, but true genius is the guy who could create something like an ipod, or iphone (my iphone 1 being stolen still hurts), an ipad or Mac air, and not compromise with the people who must have been there saying
don't spend the money on designing a new interface, just sell what we have
and maintain profitability.

True genius.

Anyway. sad that you are gone, I hope you find peace.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th - 10 years later

I was watching cnbc when they broke into live coverage of
the premarket with video of the first tower that was hit.
We had just gone to New York on vacation 2 weeks before, and
we went into the south tower to Windows on the World, but
they wouldn't let us on the roof, it was raining slightly.
I said don't worry, we'll come back to New York another time.
-doh. When they showed the first tower was on fire, I said
"that's the building we didn't go into" and I went back to
eating my cereal. I with my head down in the feedbag I didn't
see the 2nd plane hit, just the resulting red glow of the
steel after the fireball subsided.

Strangely enough, we left home. I brought my wife to school
and I went to the office. Even with war starting I was scheduled
to go offshore the next day and I had to do some preparatory
work on a unix box at the office. My boss called from NO
and said they were evacuating and I could go home too, but
I wasn't finished yet, so I rolled a tv out of a conference room
into the hallway where I could hear it. Every website
I knew was down, it wan't until later in the afternoon that
I discovered Instapundit, so I was stuck listening while
software slowly ground through some data. When they said
that the south tower had collapsed, I couldn't believe it,
I pictured the top falling off, or partially collapsing. I
couldn't picture the building collapsing because it was so
freaking huge. Just seeing it on tv didn't describe it's size
you had to walk around it, and look up from the base to see
up the dizzying heights to appreciate how giant those buildings
were. I didn't imagine it collapsing into a pile of dust and
twisted steel.

I finally finished and went home, then I went offshore that
night, arriving to fourchon at 5:30 to take one of the last
helicopters that week, because they shut down all helicopters
as well later that day. I spent the next week working in
a logging cabin, and reading about what had happened on
blogs, the best information was on Jerry Pournelle's
The stories about firefighters running up the stairs
to the 75th story were pretty amazing, but the most amazing was
the story of Rick Rescorla, who was singing Men of Harlech while
getting his people to evacuate, and staying until the building
collapsed around him.

Men of Harlech

Men of Harlech stop your dreaming
can't you see their spear points gleaming
see their warrior pennons streaming
to this battle field

Men of Harlech stand ye steady
Let it not be ever said ye
For this battle were unready
Welshmen do not yield

From the hills rebounding
Let the war cry sounding
Summon all, the clarion call
the mighty foe surrounding

Men of Harlech on to glory
This will ever be your story
keep these stirring words before ye
Welshmen do not yield

Fight for father, sister, mother,
Each is bound to each as bother;
And with faith in one another,
We will win or die!
Tho' our mothers may be weeping,
Tho' our sisters may be keeping
watch for some who now are sleeping;
On the battlefield,

Still the trumpet's braying,
Sounds on ever saying,
Let each bowman pierce a foe,
And never stop the slaying,

Till invaders learn to fear us,
And no Saxon linger near us;
Men of Wales! our God doth hear us,
Never will we yield!

We'll not die, be conquered never
Harlech, Harlech, lives forever
Freedoms' from the greatest giver
Freedom is our good.
See how Welshmen shouting run down
from the moutains they do come down
Like a storm that strikes at sun down
boil up like a flood.

Welshmens strength has made her
Freedom's strong crusader
Swords of Welsh men have cut deep
the heart of the invader

The sword is met, by sword replying
steel on steel on strength relying
See where Gwyers' flag is flying
Freedom's in her blood.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

President Obama, bestest writer ever

A good article at American Thinker showing that
the President's earlier writing at the law review
that is as grammatically impaired as mine, miraculously
changes to become the best memoir eva'.

The comments are even funnier, one comment suggesting
that the grammatically impaired are an oppressed minority.
(Sing it brother)

I don't think it's so terrible to be a writer of turgid
prose, my writing varies from turgid to incomprehensible if
I stray off the technical writing dry bones footpath.
I do think the press should have done it's job a couple
of years ago, and written articles like this before the election.

The election is coming up, the mainstream press is already in
full attack mode on the rethuglicans (I've been called worse, I'd
wear tea-bagger as a badge of honor if I ever get the chance).
It would be interesting to see some unbiased strait reporting
of the realities of the presidential candidates. I like Rick Perry
because when I lived in Texas I never heard his name, which is exactly
what I want from the government But maybe he was just playing possum.
Who is he really? Is the only way to find out who a politician is to
elect them to a higher office? To find out what's in a bill, pass it?
Is this a christmas present or a bomb? I don't know, let's crowd in
close and open it. Not the best technique.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

This kind of war

I'm reading "This Kind of War" by T.R. Fehrenbach, which is a history
of the Korean Conflict. Fehrenbach has now become my favorite writer
of History, taking over the spot from Barbara Tuchman (Guns of August).
He also wrote a fantastic history of Mexico that explains why this
country is the way it is. (Fire and Blood, a history of Mexico).

In the same way that Fire and Blood really does a good job of
describing Mexico in such a way that what is happening today
is easy to predict, "this kind of war" tells the story of Korea
in such a gripping way that it is hard to put down. It is also
apparent to me that much of our relationship with China has it's
seeds in the Korean Conflict.

The tale begins with the North Koreans sweeping south over both the
ROK armies as well as ill-trained, ill-equipped american soldiers who
are no longer the professional army of the 1930's, but one that has
been gutted by congressional reforms to make it nicer. The UN forces
finally overcome the NK's and drive them up to the Yalu when they
are almost overwhelmed by the Chinese.

I've read other books and seen movies (even MASH showing the 'buguouts')
that imply what happened, but always presenting US victory as foregone
conclusion. Dr Fehrenbach's book really brings to life the struggle
faced by the army and marines while fighting a limited war.

It is also more apparent to me that the normal presentation of chinese
troops either being Russian catspaws, or allies of the North Koreans isn't
so true, it really was a war between the USA and China, with a slight
veneer of North Koreans and some tech assistance from Russia.

We've mostly forgotten that we fought a bloody war with the Chinese just
60 years ago, but I'm not so sure that the Chinese have. In the letter
that MacArthur published that got him fired, he speaks about how the chinese
have not enough manufacturing to support a modern army, and it would be
possible for the USA to use just a few nukes to completely remove their
industrial capacity. Dr Fehrenbach goes into detail about how MacArthur's
letter upset embassy's around the world.

I imagine the comments about china's backwardness and lack of industry
really hit home in China. In the USA the Korean conflict is long forgotten,
the 50,000 men who died have a nice memorial in washington. Maybe
it's not so forgotten in China and has been a major driver of
the competitiveness and the willingness to spend almost any amount
of money to shut down american industries.

I guess we'll see in a few years, if they have evil intentions we're
almost at that point whatever nefarious plan they have can come to fruition.
If there is no nefarious plan, just plain old mercantilism the same
result could happen, probably just slightly less gloating will occur.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

S'scusi, dove il bar?

The song "not now john" by pink floyd is stuck in my head
today, or more specifically the refrain that says "Fuck all that!"
sung by the backup singers.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Nobody hurt he says

Glenn Reynolds mentioned this article in the NYtimes that shows
how fewer mexicans want to go to the USA now, there are more opportunities
here in Mexico, fewer in the USA and the border region is dangerous.
(I'd bet on number 3, no matter how bad the economy I don't imagine many
suburbanites doing hard labor like picking lettuce for $2/hr)

Glenn then snarks that our employment situation is bad enough in
the USA that Americans will soon be sneaking across the border the
other way. I nearly snorted some coffee out of my nose when I realized
he was talking about me. I nearly had a job offer in the USA last
year when Macondo happened, and then the blowout killed any chance
I had. The deepwater drilling ban killed our operations offshore,
and got a lot of people fired/retired/transferred out.

When Obama implies that no one really lost their job due to his ban,
he shows his ignorance of how the world works. A minimum wage cleanup
job is not the same as technical offshore worker's wage. So thanks
Obama for keeping me an expat. (I'm not saying he shouldn't have
stopped drilling to review the licensing process, but he could have
done it like I suggested here last June)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Slip sliding away

The New Orleans times picayune has a good article on
the Morganza spillway, with a map showing where the water
will be diverted to lower the risk of flooding in New Orleans.

I didn't know that the Morganza spillway and Atchafalaya spillway
cover almost the same route. I lived for a couple of years
in the atchafalaya spillway in Butte La Rose (french for Rose's
Butt, I don't know who Rose was). It was pretty stupid to live
there, it was a great fishing camp, but I was single and working
offshore. When I got home, there was no food and it was 15 miles
to henderson on a levee road, so I subsisted mostly on what I could
buy at the local bait shop, beer and chips.

When I first moved there I fished almost every day from the dock.
Fishing and drinking is quite respectable, but after a while catching
fish really just got in the way of drinking. Also, since
my water discharge line was right below the dock I never ate anything
I caught, I think I just caught the same 5 fish over and over.

I crushed all my cans and kept them, thinking I would recycle them.
Finally I gave them to an old guy collecting cans on the side of the
road. Two 50 gallon bags of crushed cans, I thought the old guy was
going to kiss me.

Luckily, the owner asked me to move out because someone wanted to buy
the camp, and I moved back to Lafayette, otherwise I'd probably still be living
out there, or working as the assistant of the old guy picking up cans
on the side of the road.

I'm glad it looks like Butte La Rose won't be as flooded as
they were predicting earlier in the week. I really liked it out there,
it's just not a good first home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You can never go home again

Coyote blog has a link to a great set of pictures at
"how to be a retronaut", all taken in a video arcade cerca 1982.

Since I spent most of my disposable income one quarter at
a time, that brings back memories. What game was my favorite
depends on the year...Galaxian, then Galaga, Asteroids,
star castle, elevator action, any game where you got to
sit down and pretend to be a pilot for 3 minutes. I was
probably best at Star Wars, but I cheated by working at an
ice cream shop that had that one game. If no one was there
I was playing. (I should have studied instead, the Jedi
never came to ask my help)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Game of thrones

Mexico was a week ahead on Thor, and it's a month behind on
Game of thrones, so I didn't get to see the first one until last
night. Not bad. Everything according to the book, graphics
look good, some decent acting. I detected a slight drift towards
a revenge of the sith filming technique, Darth Vader horribly
burned... check. Direwolf puppies found...check. It was
good enough that I'm looking forward to next Sunday.

Strangely enough, I watched Clash of the Titans right before,
and I liked that movie. Much better than the other version with
the guy from LA Law. (I summon google...shazam...Harry Hamlin)
(Why doesn't google do that, right mouse click, google search my
last sentence. Shazam.)

The next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series comes out in July.
It's something I'll have to buy on the kindle just for safety reasons,
a hard-back 1000 page book can easily smother you if you fall asleep
while reading. Kindle, it's for safety (tm).

Sunday, May 08, 2011


I signed up for twitter, @joegremlin. I don't know how much
I'll use it, but it seems much more phone-sized then blogger.
By the time I navigate to blogger on my phone and peck out a few
words I've forgotten what I wanted to say. Twitter is already
limited to about how much I have time to say, so it could be a
good fit.

I'm following several financial type people (Cramer, Alltucher, Ritholtz,
and a few celebrities. Best thing I've seen is Marina Orlova @hotforwords.
I didn't know etymology could be so interesting.

We'll see how it goes, I spend so much time traveling that I don't have time
to blog, I should be able to twitter more frequently. Same basic topics,
no work or family, just travel, finance, politics, books and movies.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Hi Ho, the son of a bitch is dead!

I've never been so happy to hear about someone being killed.
I went to bed before they announced it, so I woke up to a chat
message from my wife saying "felicitaciones!"

Off to buy some sweets to bring to work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ravenna, revisited

I'm back in Ravenna for a conference this week, the weather is
cool and crisp, all the Italians are beautiful in their
scarfs and boots, the only change I can detect after 6 months
absence is my bank has been renovated and the people that work
there have become efficient and friendly. (2 years here, no one in
that bank was ever friendly, is there something in the water?)

I went to visit our old neighbors and they gave me an excellent
lunch, spagetti a la speck and vitello and about 9 glasses of
wine and noccino. I need to go up to the office and say hi, but
I suspect I'm too drunk to go at the moment, I may have to go
in the morning. doh.

I like Mexico, the people work really hard, and I fit in because
I look like I could drive a bus there. I really love Italy, I
just could never fit in, everyone here is tall and elegantly
dressed, and even if I bought new clothes here I'd look like a
bus driver wearing Italian clothes.

Italy is like a country filled with the cool people from high school,
all dressed right, even if it's a battered old coat they manage
to pull off being cool. The food is just right, wine is perfect,
but every time I try an italian wine outside of Italy it's crap,
as if here is a bubble of perfectness, once you carry things out
of here they take up the local properties. Maybe Italianness isn't
exportable like French wines or irish beer.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Machiavelli and Muamar

It looks like Sarkozy is actively starting the no fly zone
over Libya. I think it's too late and the USA will lose credibility
and create another enemy, from yahoo:

After weeks of hesitation and divisions among his advisers, President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed military action against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, saying U.S. values and credibility are at stake to stop "the potential for mass murder" of innocents.

I hope it's not, but I think it's too late to help the rebels,
and without going all the way for regime change we'll have pissed
off a guy with a lot of oil income and an army, we'll be looking
at blowback for the next 20 years. As Machiavelli said:

"Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge."

If they had done something a few weeks ago, it would have been
like Afganistan in 2001, just a few cia guys with laser designators
and a few planes with LGB's. Muamar's forces are mostly mercenaries,
just a few magic bombs that kill large groups with unerring accuracy
and they would have headed back home without waiting for paychecks.
That's really the only hope here, (it would have been much easier
back on the coast road though) as Machiavelli said:

mercenaries are disunited and without discipline; bold among friends, yet cowardly among enemies; they have no fear of God, and keep no faith with men. In a word, they are unreliable. If a nation, against his advice, relies on mercenaries for its protection, it keeps its ruin at bay only so long as it can postpone an attack.

(I couldn't find the exact quote, my copy of the prince is still in
a box amongst 25 other boxes of books. I really admire Machiavelli,
when I toured the Palazzo Vecchio I was very interested to see his
office. The Prince is biting satire, but still mostly good advice
if you want to be evil)

It really annoys me that no one in this super intelligent administration
read the prince, or read the history of the africa corps in WW2.
The coast road is the key, the rest of the country is desert. All
of the battles were at one end of the road or the other, in the
middle they were chases supported by air support. It would have been
easier to redeem the full faith and credit of the USA if things were
done two weeks ago.

If I were king, I'd go all out now and shut down the Libyan air force
now and land the marines behind the mercenaries south of bengazi. I
would bet they'd fold up their tents and go home without us having to
retake a city by force.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Syndrome

I was thinking that the worst thing that would happen
would be a melt down that would stay in containment, but
this guy says it could be worse:

If workers are unable to get additional cooling water into the reactor vessel, the molten fuel core will collapse into the water in bottom of the vessel. Eventually the heat from the decaying fuel would boil away the water that's left, leaving the core sitting on the vessel's lower head made of steel.

Should that happen, "It'll melt through it like butter," Allen said.

That, in turn, would cause a "high-pressure melt injection" into the water-filled concrete cavity below the reactor. Because the concrete would likely be unheated, the reaction created by the sudden injection of the reactor's ultra-hot content would be immense, he said.

"It'll be like somebody dropped a bomb, and there'll be a big cloud of very, very radioactive material above the ground," Allen said, noting that it would contain uranium and plutonium, as well as the fission products.

I'll say it now: GAH!

That sounds uncomfortably close to what was described in the China

Tsunami and nukes

Here we only have Fox and Cnn international and
neither one ever says anything new, they keep talking
about the nukes, when even the worst case exposures would
be a few REM. I've worked with logging sources, and over
about one year I got around 600 mREM, to no negative effect
(twitch twitch). When they mention a dose of 400 uSieverts,
that is a pissant's fart worth of radiation.
[edited after I had a cup of coffee, i meant dose, not rate]

What they seem to be missing is the rest of coastal northern Japan
has been nearly wiped out, the nytimes has an article about
several small towns that were hit by 60' waves. I don't see
how the death toll can't be less then 30 or 40k. Hopefully
no one in the government or the navy is watching Fox, they
need to move ships and helicopters to the more remote towns
where they can do some good.

I would bet the only real danger would be to the 50 guys who
have to go in and fight the fires and keep the plant cool. I
hope they are rotating them enough that no one gets more than
several REMs, and not doing the chernobyl technique of sending in
50 men to die.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I'm trying to work on a presentation for next week, with
around 20 ppt presentations open as I shuffle slides around,
but I keep going back to various news sites to see what is
happening in Japan. The videos of the tsunami are much worse
on the net, when they showed the water crossing farmland on
CNN friday it looked like a thin film of water seeping across

My scale was wrong, watching the full video on
the web, the water is carrying houses and cars and even a
boat that must have set the record for farthest inland boat.
In the video, finally the water approches another town with
a highway with cars that are stopping because they see that
the thin film of water is bearing down on them. One white
car pulled off the road, reversed direction and was last seen
leaving ahead of the water, but the helicopter cameraman
didn't keep him in frame. The guy must have had a pretty
horrifying rear view mirror view.

Even in the most prepared country in the world, if the disaster
is big enough no one is coming to help for 3 days. yikes.
We're out of the Oughts, this crap should stop now.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

President Carter redux

I'm watching CNN as the worst case scenario seems to be
unfolding in Japan. Once again the question is edging towards
"why isn't the US Navy there yet?", and the CNN announcer doesn't
seem to understand that the Pacific is freaking big, anything not
there in Japan won't be there for a few days.

The next story blinks up; Qkadafy is taking the city of Ras Lanuf,
and I really don't see how the rebels can win without outside help.
One side has more modern weapons and air support, the other side has
15 year old boys and 30 year old weapons. I'd ask again, where is the
US Navy?

Two big problems doom the rebellion in Libya by preventing outside
assistance (meaning help from the USA). The intervention clock has
been reset to 1990, it's a bipolar or tripolar world again and we need
the consent of Russia and China to work through the UN. (not happening)
We also have the 1990 post-vietnam(Iraq) perspective of we don't want
to get involved in something that probably would become a quagmire.

The other problem is Arab fatigue. We really don't know the language,
culture or beliefs of anyone there, and my give a fuck level is very
low with anything that happens south or east of Italy. Neptunus Lex
says it better:

It would be the profoundest irony if, after having broken our hearts and the bodies of our youth for nearly 10 years now in the Middle East we have come to the conclusion that “these people” cannot be saved at precisely the same moment when they finally became ready for salvation.

Because that’s what just happened, if you weren’t paying attention: We’ve gotten tired of them. We’re tired of their ululations, their savagery and their conspiracy theories. We’re tired of their backwardness, sloth, dependency and fatalism. We’ve gotten tired of trying to accommodate a modern day, pluralistic and tolerant society to the religious dictates of a military adventurer dead some 1400 years.

The same people that called me a facist motherfucker in 2003 are the same
dickheads saying we should intervene in Libya. My GAF level is low enough that President Carter's dithering over the problem doesn't send me writing emails
hither and yon to various congressmen that could be representing me. More of
a sense of a missed opportunity, we've recreated an enemy in Libya by Carter's calling for him to go, but didn't do anything to make him go. I don't think the current President Carter included "The Prince" in his extensive, elite education.

[just to translate from Joe to english: I'd support support the current
President Carter if he'd do his job and swat khadafy duck, and I think that
is a consistent position. Hussein was a dick and he made war on us, we made
war on him and now he's gone. Khadafy is a dick, and has made war on us off
and on for 30 years, he should be made to go, not told to go. Don't do a
powerful enemy a small hurt]

Monday, February 28, 2011

War. huh. what the hell it's good for, absolutely nothing

I'm watching Anderson Cooper and the same dickwads from
eight years ago are on there, (wolfowitz and wesley clark)
how we should invade libya or give arms to the rebels or
set a no fly zone. Clark mentioned that he doesn't want
troops in there until there is legal support from the UN.
Of course the US had UN resolutions against Iraq that supported
removing Saddam, yet now 'War is Good'. grrrrr.

If the USA is going to attack Ghadafy, the congress should pass
a declaration of war. People that are for it now can't say later
they didn't vote for WAR, they voted for war. Declare war, say
the aim is to take Ghadafy out of power, then the 6th fleet sweeps
all aircraft out the sky over Libya and drops an LGB on daffy duck.

This video says it all

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oil, Oil everywhere, i'll take me a drink.

Jerry Pournelle has a nice short essay about the craziness
going on around the world. Just to quote the end:

I long ago concluded that we are not capable of guarding the liberty of the people of the Near East, and that we ought to develop our own energy resources. I see no reason to change my views, although it will be far more expensive now. It will only get more expensive in future. We need to drill for oil, build nuclear power plants, and develop natural gas. Those ought to be our first priorities. Once we have energy we can use it to build those green facilities that we are told will save the planet, but if we cannot save ourselves, we certainly cannot save the planet.

I like reading JP probably because I agree pretty closely with
what he says, and he's able to say it without stupid or offensive
jokes. He was against the Iraq war from the beginning, I was
lukewarm for it until it started, then I felt the war should be
supported without being lukewarm.

Where we agree most strongly is on energy. The lunacy of sending
billions of dollars per month to countries that would nuke us if
they could get away with it is astonishing. Having to watch every
oil industry cycle where the price goes up and then crashes, each
time more of the US oil industry is destroyed and we end up importing

Energy is the key. We've got a few trillion left on our mastercard,
we should be building up energy self sufficiency. If the dollar is
worthless at some point, imported energy will be prohibitively
expensive and it might be too late to stop the final spiral down
to 19th century agrarianism, with internet. (very little travel,
and what does occur happens by slow train) "The sheep look up" by
John brunner type outcomes. Or is it Stand on Zanzibar?

Part of the problem is politicians and people enjoy the point in the
cycle when everything is crashed, and gas is $1 again. All the
alternative energy industries reset back to zero, and people go
back to buying hummers (not the good kind). I'm with the greenies
slightly in thinking that fuel prices need to be higher than 90 cents
per gallon. One way to do that is now that oil is $100/bbl again,
setting an import tax on oil to keep a minimum price, somewhere
between $50-$80/bbl, and apply if for natural gas as well to keep
nat gas prices north of $3.5/cu ft.

That will make nukes look cheaper, and solar look cost effective
in some areas, or at least it won't totally kill the US energy
industry every 5 years.

Some other things are still needed of course, convert all trucks
to run on natural gas. Build nukes and clean coal,etc. But anything
we can do to keep money in the US will help build the long term

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coon skin and Muamar hide; makes a pair of jump boots just the right size*

The Gomorgans ask why we don't oblige Muamar Khadafy
and make him a martyr. President Reagan tried in the 80's,
I don't expect anything to be tried now, maybe another speech or two.

Ghettoputer does make the point that Khadafy looks like either
like Jack Nicholson after a rough night, or a sand people from
star wars. I vote sand people.

*from an AFROTC running cadence, or Jodie, I can't remember it exactly
various animals attack, then make a pair of jump boots just the right
size, until the last verse we meet up with Muamar. He was an asshole
murderer in 1987, and he's still an asshole murderer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Kindle, old books

Amazon was nice enough to send me a new kindle to replace my dead one.
It's been dead for a while, and I had given it up as a wasted $400.
I finally got around to calling them, and they agreed that the old kindle
was dead and shipped a new one here to Mexico, and are even paying the shipping to return the old one to the USA. Amazing Amazon.

The only disappointment was the shipping email said they were sending a
kindle 2, but a kindle 1 showed up. The whispernet doesn't work outside
the US, with a kindle 1 I still need to connect up to a computer and
drag and drop the files. (What drudgery! he complains; instead of being
stuck in the wilds of mexico with just books in espanol to read...I can
buy any book I want with just a cable)

I'll probably start with "the big short" by Michael Lewis, and a book
by Seth Godin, who's blog is a dally read; he's like the Army, he
generates more ideas before breakfast than most people generate all day.

I did cheat and download a book from project gutenberg, just to have
something immediately, and it's the "Three Musketeers". You can't
beat a book by Alexandre Dumas for quick excitement, but the book has
changed since I read it as a boy, now I see Michael York in every scene,
the memory of the movie has overwritten my memories of the book.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rainy day, planes trains and apocalypse

Here in Southern Mexico it's been raining continuously for 3 days.
It's cool, not cold, getting down to around 60 F, but it looks
cold and miserable so it feels colder. Reading the interwebs:
Egypt, good luck, congratulations, etc. Hopefully the radicals
won't take over and the worse thing they'll chant outside the US
Embassy will be "Serious knee injury to the Great Satan".

I can see high-speed rail is back on the drawing board. I really
like trains. It's fantastic in Italy,if you live within walking distance
to a train station, you can go from your house to anywhere in Northern
Italy in just 3 hours without a car. It works perfectly in a small
country with nuclear power, everything is all electric, if the price
of oil goes to 400/bbl, train tickets stay the same while airlines
go out of business. (Italy doesn't have nukes unfortunately)

I've taken trains all over europe, the longest run I took was from
Milan to Napoli. 400 miles and 5 hours, which wasn't really that
bad because you're going not to an airport an hour outside of town
and you don't have to be there very early, so a 5 hour trip is 5

Key things that make trains successful:
- train stations are downtown
- trains are on a separate network then roads, no crossings
- passengers separate network from freight

What makes high speed rail successful:
- high speed trains are on a separate network from other trains
- all distances are within normal airplane travel time, one day travel
is possible if unpleasant
- it's all electric. at some oil price point, high speed rail will
be more efficient if the electricity is coming from coal or nukes.

France is most prepared for the future, with all their major cities
linked by nuclear powered high speed rail, when the next oil shock
kills the airline industry they'll still be ok for internal travel.
I would be ok with emulating france, creating local high speed networks
in the usa with new nukes at the same time to power them.

What I would do if I were emperor, I'd start to build local routes
of less than 400 miles with the nukes to power them and spend money
on research for even faster trains using maglev to build the cross
country routes.

There are two similar length routs (400 mi vs 387 mi) from Milan to
Naples and New Orleans to Dallas, that's about the limit I could be on
a train and still make a meeting on the same day. I found a report
that estimated the building cost for the tracks, two way tracks on
elevated cement roadway, at 20MM euros per km, which is around
$40MM per mile. A 400 mile route would cost $16 Billion.
Or a better route to start with would be the triangle between
houston-dallas-san antonio, that loop would around 720 miles, or
$29 Billion. That triangle route has lots of traffic, lots of people
moving from downtown to downtown.

The purchase of trains versus the purchase of aircraft is a wash. I doubt
we'd save much on fuel costs if you include the cost of a nuclear power
plant to power these things, but we should build them so that we have
availability of travel. We made it through the last crash with some
part of the oil industry left, but I don't see how we can make it through
an infinite number of these crashes. When prices reach $150/bbl again next
year, the economy is going to crash again, then the oil industry. We're
really just starting to ramp up now, after another crash we won't ramp up
at all, prices will just march straight back up again because production will
really be in decline. As the economy circles the drain demand destruction
will kill the price of crude because no one will be traveling.

The reason I think we should be doing this I'm starting to think it's too
late for scrubbing the budget, we're using the credit cards to pay the
mortgage, we should probably build something so that after the crash people
can still travel without having to take a pack-mule.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Irish eyes ain't smilin'

During the peak of the financial crises a couple of years ago,
when it seemed possible that the entire banking system could unravel,
I was in Bucharest for a week. I was having lunch with some Romanians
and they were asking me what was going on in the USA, their pensions
were in AIG. I gave a "I'm sure everything will be fine" that I didn't
believe and felt glad that I had wired some money to Europe the week
before, I thought the dollar was going to continue sliding.

I apparently suck at financial analysis because I had sent the money
at the peak of pessimism at 1.55 eurusd, then sent most of it back at
the peak of european fear last year at 1.25. Doh. (not even doh with
exclamation point, just doh.

Someone who doesn't suck at financial analysis is Michael Lewis from
Vanity Fair. I wanted to buy his book 'the big short' in houston last
year, but I was already burdened down like juan valdez' mule and couldn't
take a hardback book with me. A lot of content from that book is online,
including the story of AIG's trading group as told to Mr Lewis by insiders.

It was good that we didn't let the Romanian's lose their pensions, but
they could have done it without making The Goldman Sachs whole, or providing
a windfall to a guy that was betting against the housing ponzi scheme
instead of screaming about the problem from the rooftops. His story
is told in The Big Short and in a really excellent excerpt we get most
of the story in "Betting on the Blind Side"

That guy Dr Burry is a genius and he deserves to get paid, but very few people
put the whole problem together like he did, and certainly no one in
the government figured it out. (I could see it was a bubble, I knew
that the mortgages were being sold off as bonds from reading 'Liar's
Poker', but I had never heard about CDS' and CDO's before 2008)
Hopefully next time someone sees Armageddon coming down the pike, they
won't just buy CDS's against meteor strikes. ("so if a 100 m tall wave
washes us away, you have to pay $2MM? I'm rich bitches. But don't tell
anyone if they don't buy my newsletter.")

I also like ML's article on the Irish disaster where the government guaranteed a bunch of bankster money, putting the irish people on the hook for a few year's worth of tax revenue instead of just dumping the bondholder's
overboard like the more sensible Icelanders did.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I hope we have a remote off switch for all those tanks

I spent the day watching fox news and playing Napoleon's
campaign in Egypt. I'm making the crossing to Palestine,
and I'd bet the same invasion will be happening soon enough
if the wrong people end up in charge of Egypt.

Egypt deserves to be a republic. A good percentage of the
people in the oilfield are egyptian, and they are some of
the best educated, smartest people, switching from french
to english to arabic at the drop of a hat. Instead, according
to the pols in this article, it's going to be an Islamist

But what do Egyptians really think? According to a recent Pew poll, they are extremely radical even in comparison to Jordan or Lebanon. When asked whether they preferred “Islamists” or “modernizers,” the score was 59% to 27% in favor of the Islamists. In addition, 20 percent said they liked al-Qaeda; 30 percent, Hezbollah; 49 percent, Hamas. And this was at a time that their government daily propagandized against these groups.

How about religious views? Egyptian Muslims said the following: 82 percent want adulterers punished with stoning; 77 percent want robbers to be whipped and have their hands amputated; 84 percent favor the death penalty for any Muslim who changes his religion.

If that's the case, I'd bet their first item on their agenda
will be taking all the rage on the streets and pointing it to
Israel. Who knows how that would go if it's M1 tank against M1 tank?

Yikes. That curse of 'may you live in interesting times' is very true,
I wish it was the end of history again

Sunday, January 23, 2011

End of Weekend humor

Not a very effective weekend. I had to re-revise the revisions
of the edited version of the paper I'm writing.
Apparently I'm the worst user of Word version tracking in the world,
I ended up turning off all the editing popups so I could see what
words were there. I got that sent off, and instead of jogging
around the lagito here, or doing some other work I spent the
rest of the weekend playing Total War Napolean and surfing the

The game isn't too bad, not as good as Rome, and it must require
windows 7 and 32 gigs of ram, because with the 3 GB that xp32 can
use it crashes at every big battle, a couple of times saving me
from humiliation as my last few calvary got chased around the

I surfed the web and watched some movies too, since my family is
off visiting relatives. One very funny writer is on Altucher Confidential.
His writing is so open that one of the commenters suggested he must
have a brain tumor (cue Arnold "It's not a tuma").
Super funny though. Including stories about his dot-com companies, where he lost millions after making millions. It's good that he can joke about it, I lost a crapload of money but nothing like millions, and if I think too hard about it I'll have to go drink a relief beer.

Here's a clip from his story today about beginner yoga classes:

Chanting. At the beginning of class there’s a chant. It starts off with a big “Ommmm”. I can handle that. But then it goes into something else that I can’t understand. Everyone else is doing the chant. For some reason I blush and I try to hum along with it but then blush more because why am I even humming?

there's a scott adams (dilbert) rule that chanting is always funny.
Dogbert asking a prospective cult member "can you chant" is funny, humming
while pretending to chant is double funny.

The world turned upside down

The funny video showing Chairman Hu in washington like
the new owner was even truer than I thought. One of the
songs the piano player played at the presidential reception
is a song from a movie about the korean war.

Linked from Althouse to the paper the epoch times:

The song Lang Lang played describes how beautiful China is and then near the end has this verse, “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” in the song is the United States....

Just from reading James Clavell novels about china and the orient it's
easy to know that they have no respect for westerners, and if this happened
in china it wouldn't surprise me at all. But this was a piano player the
USA paid for, and he provided the list of songs he was going to play to
the state department and the Chinese. Our state department doesn't have
a single person who would recognize that song and squelch it. Maybe we deserve
their disrespect.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just Dang

Apparently Steve Jobs is still sick and will take
a leave of absence. I hope he gets well not just for
the sake of my apple stock, but because he seems to
create things that I really like (iPod, Pixar, iphone
and itunes). Some jerkwad in bucharest stole my iphone,
but itunes is still a big source our entertainment, for
the times when we've been tvless like the first couple of
months in Italy and before we got skytv here.

On the other hand, apple stock was the last best chance
for us to get rich. I bought it with the remainder of
my dot-bomb account when apple was $15/share. I heard
the first ipod playing in the cubicle next
in the heck did so much music play without repeats I asked?
I put the 2k that hadn't boogered away during the crash
into apple.

I stupidly sold off most of it when it quadrupled, but the
remainder still has gone up 10 times. Fear and greed made
me sell at the wrong time and now hold too long. Tomorrow
the stock will probably go down $50, of course fear will
probably keep me from buying it tomorrow morning. doh.

here's what zerohedge has to say:

Below we present the top 200 holders of AAPL stock. The holdings of the smallest one in the group amount to $133 million. We are confident they will all exit the theater in a calm, collected fashion.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Past is prologue

I just watched "Full Metal Jacket" for the first time since I saw
it in the theater in 1987. I watched it the first time at the BX
theatre at Chanute AFB during AF tech school. They probably should
have chosen a different movie to show there, since the whole base
was full of airmen fresh out of basic training. My main thought
after watching that was 'thank goodness I didn't join the Marine
Corp, since the crazy guy at Paris Island was playing me. I started
Basic training as the fattest slowest guy there. It took every bit
of running around for 6 weeks to burn all the fat off, not a chance
I could have made it through anything more rigorous.

Anyway, it's kind of weird the way the past is telescoping behind us.
When full metal jacket came out it was only 14 years after US combat
troops left Vietnam, and Vietnam seemed like an eternity in the past
at the time. Now it's nearly twice as long back to 1987, and really
just a blink of an eye has passed. (or as the wife says, like 10 minutes,
under water.

Kind of weird too that 20 years ago this week I started in the oilfield,
and that time definitely passed as if I was underwater. But I wouldn't
change anything, working here allowed me to meet my wife and have a
family, without the oilfield I'd probably still be turning wrenches as a jet
mech, drinking 40 oz miller lites every night. doh.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Killer Greens

Over at EU referendum they point to the floods in
Australia whose effects were entirely preventable
and predictable. Similar floods have happened in the past
and flood control projects were shelved in favor of
desalination plants to deliver fresh water to a global
warming parched land.

Good irony. Here's the killer quote:

But the real story is bizarre, another classic example of the greenies forcing major distortions in policy which cost money we haven't got and eventually kill people. Increasingly we see that the obsession with global warming is not a risk-free option. It costs money we can't afford, and lives. This must stop.

Economics says we can't have everything. Choices have to be
made in order to provide shelter, water, heat and power
efficiently. Instead of choosing the most cost effective option
we're choosing the global warming mitigating option:

Windmills, solar, etc. Solar PV in germany when an insolation map would say
there is no point. Talking about windmills in the gulf of mexico
when half the year there's no wind, the other half it's too strong.
In a poor country like mexico they are talking about outlawing
incandescent bulbs so the poor people can't even have a reasonably
priced light at night.

Decision making is so terrible in all levels of government in every country.
People don't understand, when they choose something it almost always
eliminates the other options (Tanstaafl) Choose wisely, or we'll be
spending future winters in the dark and cold.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Pour encourager les autras?

I didn't get to see much news this weekend, I got to
go to a bbq at a fellow gringo's house and attempted to
kill off my various stomach problems with beer and grilled
meat. Didn't work but I had fun.

I missed the ruckus over in TJICistan when after the congresswoman
got shot, TJIC snarkily said one down and 534 to go. Not LOL, but pretty clever.
Half of the libtardosphere went there and commented, what
terrible people they are that inhabit Tjicistan. (A similar situation
happened at work, a coworker pointed out an article from africa where
a guy got eaten by a lion when he went out of camp to take a leak and
I laughed. I even gave permission to laugh at me if I'm ever eaten
while taking a dump, or hang myself with a rope tied to my nuts.) Little
girl shot by nut, tragedy, not funny. Gringo killed in Army/narco crossfire,
not funny. 1 down and 534 to go is not in good taste, but is pretty funny.

It's a terrible thing that happened, but snark is always allowed.
and snarky comments shouldn't cause a visit from the FBI as some of
the commenters are hyperventilating.

After listening to libtards talking about assassinating bush
for 8 years, their gnashing of teeth over this tragedy and pinning
the blame on Palin is pretty fucking rich.

Update 23 Jan - "I Am TJIC"

Apparently his guns were taken away by the local sheriff because he's
a threat. What kind of bullshit is that? So much for free speech.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The best cracker ever

I'm eating the best cracker ever, a slightly burnt saltine,
and the salty/smoky flavors are rolling across my tongue.
It's the first solid I've eaten in two days, which was the
continuation of a really sucky week. I got sick new years
eve, so sick I had to leave a party with free booze and lots
of good food. New years day every doctor in town was closed,
so I went to the emergency room and the guy there told me I have
the flu and gave me an antiviral with decongestant and Tylenol
mixed in (big honging pills that have to be taken for 10 days)

Stayed home all week, still feeling like crap, I went to an ENT
to see what was really going on, and he declared a bacterial infection
and gave me 10 giant antibiotic pills that have to be taken one
per day. I was feeling overmedicated, but better, until those
pills reacted, I ate something bad or someone gave me poison and
my digestive system as they say in the oilfield, reversed out.

The only thing comparable is being seasick on a boat for 15 hours;
with the flu; a hangover and 'irregularity'. I felt like that
point in the movie The Fly, when jeff goldblum holds the shotgun up
to his head.

Everything finally stabilized last night, and I slept like the kind
of sleep where I didn't blink awake or dream a dream, just an instant
of deep dark rest, followed a moment later by waking up in the morning
light, with my family looking at me like, "hey, you're alive". Now
I'm drinking changua caballo soup (onions and salt) and eating the best
cracker ever baked.