peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Quick quiz: Are you familiar with the ethical dilemma known as The Trolley Problem? Have you ever been asked in a philosophy class or beer hall or wherever if you would kill one person to save five, and were given two scenarios detailing how the killing would take place?

If so, how did you answer? )

peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I just skipped over to one of Doug Short's constantly updating sites and checked out the graph of recent numbers concerning how much per capita we in the US are driving. Given the paramount importance over road travel is in these paved states, it's a good indicator of economic health generally, at least as a snapshot. I thought I'd share, and offer a prediction! )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Just caught an episode of This American Life called "Unfit For Work: The Startling Rise Of Disability In America". It turns out those on disability don't get counted on the unemployment roles (since, of course, they are classed as unable to work). It gets interesting! )

X-posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
The intertubes are a great resource for some things. Not so great for others. The instant nature of information dissemination is great for a death notice going 'round the world in seconds, as the recent deaths of Kim Jong Ill and that Libyan guy with the alphabet-soup-of-possible-spellings name demonstrate.

The not so much category, though, has to go to examining information on a more long-term, less spur of the moment manner. One must sift through a whole bunch of Rick rolls and cats with hats to find bits that fit with an overarching narrative that might, just might, prove useful to people trying to sniff out future trends. A good place to start would be this whole indefinite detention clause in a new bill that might soon be signed into law.

I'll let Glen Greenwald discuss the finer points of both this new future law and the trends that have been leading leaders to it. Essentially, not only can terrorists be indefinitely detained,

but also also anyone who “substantially supports” those groups and/or “associated forces” (whatever those terms mean).

That, I'm sure you will agree, is a pretty wide net to cast. Anyone who, for example, questions the legitimacy of the US government's actions might be described as someone who "substantially supports" terrorist groups who do the same, even though the first group bases their objections not on so-called "criminal acts" of the US, but rather on actual laws on the books within the United States itself, laws the current executive in charge might be violating. Protest too hard, and you might find yourself locked up without access to a lawyer . . . ever.

So, what future would be so extreme that the disaster planners in Washington deem unilateral detentions a necessary option? How about the breakdown of civil society?

I've already noted that just about everything in our presently organized society depends upon cheap and easy transport. If fuel costs rise too high, our economy hits the gas ceiling. From there, I've extrapolated that laws may have been crafted to protect our financial sector from the long contraction the loss of economic growth will necessarily create. (Mind you, I noted the protections were enacted for the financial sector, for the established banks and their oh-so-important bottom line of profit, not for the plebians like you and I merely relying upon our monetary system for financial survival. After all, those protections created money for reserves not lent into the economy.)

This is nothing new. The above graph was presented by M. King Hubbert himself in an article called "Exponential Growth as a Transient Phenomenon in Human History", published in 1976. Dmitri Orlov outlines the progression of Hubbert's three predictions:

In 1956 Hubbert predicted the US oil peak would be sometime between 1969 and 1971. For this he was ridiculed and laughed off the face of the earth (almost). Turned out the US oil peak was in 1970. This is something the drill-baby-drill, it's all the environmentalists' fault, ditto heads don't know anything about.

Next in 1974 Hubbert predicted the world oil peak to happen about 1998. However he DID say that if OPEC were to restrict the supply, then the peak would be delayed by 10-15 years which would put it at 2008-2013 . . . a reasonably close estimate of the actual global oil peak which started in 2005 and has continued as a plateau up to now. . . .

The chart above is his third prediction, about which Hubbert says:

"The third curve (on the left) is simply the mathematical curve for exponential growth. No physical quantity can follow this curve for more than a brief period of time. However, a sum of money, being of a nonphysical nature and growing according to the rules of compound interest at a fixed interest rate, can follow that curve indefinitely...Our principle constraints are cultural...we have evolved a culture so heavily dependent upon the continuance of exponential growth for its stability that it is incapable of reckoning with problems of behooves begin a serious examination of the...cultural adjustments necessary...before unmanageable crises arise..."

(I emphasized.)

It seems to me our disaster planners are taking measures to prevent the gas ceiling from hitting us too hard on our collective noggins, falling in the process right into the mindset the emboldened quote above illustrates. To prevent thinking outside the so-called box of exponential growth alternatives, one might start by developing a new source of liquid fuel; no matter how expensive that fuel might prove to extract or distribute, it will be something our economy can use while we figure out how to use less. Call this our emergency supply. How about extracting liquid fuel from tar sands and shale, then move this liquid to where it is needed? A really nice map of this plan can be found here, with an interactive feature describing the links planned and completed.

Ah, but let's say we aren't able to extract enough tarry goo from low-energy geological formations to prevent further spikes in fuel price. Let's say we get alternative political groups like, say, the Tea Party or the Occupy movement (opposite sides of the same coin, if you ask me) continuously bitching about the growing price of transport, food, and other stuff of life, but the shrinking prospects for ordinary people to get employment or other decent livings. Let's say the continued snuffing of protest by riot gear clad officers really rankles a few, and they decide to shake things up by blocking or disrupting pipelines. If they do this where the goo first flows from the steam melted tar sand, there's nothing we in the States can do . . . is there?

Well, yes there is. We can send troops north at the invite of the Prime Minister. You see, the United States and Canada agreed to just such a troop-sharing back in 2008.

Canada and the U.S. have signed an agreement that paves the way for the militaries from either nation to send troops across each other’s borders during an emergency, but some are questioning why the Harper government has kept silent on the deal. . . .

The left-leaning Council of Canadians, which is campaigning against what it calls the increasing integration of the U.S. and Canadian militaries, is raising concerns about the deal.

“It’s kind of a trend when it comes to issues of Canada-U.S. relations and contentious issues like military integration. We see that this government is reluctant to disclose information to Canadians that is readily available on American and Mexican websites,” said Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians. said there is potential for the agreement to militarize civilian responses to emergency incidents. He noted that work is also underway for the two nations to put in place a joint plan to protect common infrastructure such as roadways and oil pipelines. . . .

“Are we going to see (U.S.) troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?” he asked.

(I emphasized yet again.)

If those minor threats come at a time when other supplies of petroleum prove in drastically short supply, Mr. Trew, then the answer might very well be yes. After all, south of our border we are enacting not just legislation but, as Glen Greenwald notes, a trend toward laws that pull the legal protections granted citizens by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, possibly all so we can avoid the societal perturbations financial crashes and famine can create.

It will take time to adapt to a world without cheap motive power. We may not have the fuel necessary to make that transition without major disruptions to our economy's current configuration and subsequently to the stuff of life that structure enables. This detention mentality is a band aid. This militarization, whether crossing borders — Iraq? Afghanistan? Canada? — or deployed right here at home might be another albeit larger wound dressing, an attempt to staunch the flow of fuel from our hungry gas tanks. People who cannot conceive of viable alternatives might be pursuing the only path they see available.

I worry that they might be exactly right.
peristaltor: (Default)
I mentioned the Koch Brothers only briefly in the past. To get caught up, you really need to do some background reading. These two are becoming more and more active with their fortune.

For example, consider that they, being not only Birchers but sons of one of the founders of the John Birch Society, hate unions. Now consider that the unrest in Wisconsin is getting downright interesting:

This afternoon, Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Workers Union, sent a message to the Governor’s office agreeing to the cuts to pension & welfare benefits sought by Walker in his bill. The governor’s response was “nothing doing.” He wants the whole kit and kaboodle – the end of the collective bargaining rights of the public unions.

Oh, but it gets even better. Folks all over the country have been pouring over Gov. Walker's Budget Repair Bill, and guess what they found? A provision that would allow public assets to be sold . . . without any competitive bidding! I kept the emboldening from the link's author emboldened:

16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

Let's remember that the Koch brothers have extensive holdings in Wisconsin, including timber, coal and pipelines. If this privatization strategy works, soon Governor Walker's second-largest campaign contributors will add millions to their portfolio and cut the fat do away with those pesky unions and their darned collective bargaining.

Make no mistake: This is Fascism at work.

UPDATE: Someone named Murphy at the Buffalo Beast successfully called Gov. Walker claiming to be David Koch. Listen to the Gov spill his guts outlining the strategy for getting this bill passed.

What is it about fucking Reagan? These righties invoke his goddamned name every 5 seconds lest his ghost abandon the country or something. (The Gov waxes eloquently about Der Gipper in Part II.)
peristaltor: (Default)
I met Lenny for lunch today. Our work schedules have been out of whack for a few months, so he has had to sit on yet another journey through The Redneck Chronicles. (If you haven't, do check out his tales in my tag Lenny!.) Year ago, he discovered he was financially secure. When that discovery was made, he wisely liquidated just about all of his debt. This included paying off his various vehicles in full.

Imagine his surprise, then, when about 2 am the dogs woke him to a tow truck hitching to his own truck, paid off in full years ago. Step One: Loose the hounds. Once the Rottweiler pair has the driver backed against his rig, Step Two: Exit the house -- no reason to hurry -- in a robe carrying a sixteen gauge shotgun and a .45 Colt. Step Three: With the Colt pointed between the man's eyes, ask politely but firmly what the hell he thought he was doing.

The driver had repossession papers for the truck. A shout to the house brought Lenny's wife down with the payoff papers. In the interim, the driver noted that a truck wasn't worth anyone's life. (Funny thing, when he got to this point in the story I voiced exactly the same thought Lenny did: "It's my truck." The following "And I don't know you" seems unnecessary to the thinking observer.) Once the legalities were cleared up, the driver left alone and unharmed.

There has been a rash of bank screw-ups like this, where notes are lost, where payoffs are misplaced, where the wrong house/truck/asset has been foreclosed upon or repossessed. Our national reaction, for some reason, has been to assist the banks, never mind the rule of law (another reason to hate Chase, it seems).

This can't end well. Especially if you drive a repo truck.
peristaltor: (Default)
The oil workers from the Deepwater Horizon rig were held in open water until they signed legal documents.

I mention this because I briefly captained and crewed these crew boats. Few of them are provisioned for long trips away from port. Fewer of them have large holding tanks (though, come to think of it, with oil gushing from the benthic depths, what's a few overboard turds gonna hurt?).

I highly doubt they could have pulled this off without provisioning ships delivering food and supplies and to change out the boat crew. This smacks either of a fabrication or (more likely, IMNSHO) additional costs that could have been applied to the disaster response and clean-up.

Rigs blow up. Accidents happen. This I can accept. The above, though? Unacceptable by any stretch of the imagination. If it proves true, whoever made this call to detain should be imprisoned at the very least and the attorneys who drafted the documents disbarred.

Addendum, The Next Day: It looks like BP has a sordid history when it comes to cost-benefit analysis:

. . . The Daily Beast has obtained a document — displayed below — that goes to the heart of BP procedures, demonstrating that before the company’s previous major disaster—at a moment when the oil giant could choose between cost-savings and greater safety—it selected cost-savings. And BP chose to illustrate that choice, without irony, by invoking the classic Three Little Pigs fairy tale.

See that little hand-written note just aside the brick house option, the one that says "optimal"? That's a BP executive deciding that shelter substantial enough to protect workers is worth more than the workers the shelter might save. Really. Read the story.

[ profile] nebris hath been pointing me to both stories of late.
peristaltor: (Default)
Read enough of these peristaltic entries and you should get a sense that I subscribe to the Peak Oil theory. Essentially, this Shell geologist named M. King Hubbert gave a speech to his oil industry peers in 1956 showing his calculations. In that speech, he predicted oil production in the United States -- at that time the most productive region in the world -- would peak in 1971. He was laughed at. He was scoffed.

But he was right. In fact, his prediction was only off by six months, not to shabby for someone working without computers.

So what is peak? It refers to peak production, not peak supply. That is, Hubbert realized that any worthy business seeks, finds and extracts the easiest supply of oil to seek, find and extract before moving on to the less easy supplies to seek, find and extract. At each increase in extraction difficulty, the company needs to invest more technology and more energy to bring the oil to the surface. As technology increases in efficacy, however, the ability to supply petroleum rises with the demand for the petroleum . . . up to a point.

That point Hubbert called the Peak. Once the Peak is reached, the market demand will outstrip the available production, no matter how much technology -- and energy -- is applied.

That's exactly what happened in 1970. No matter how many new wells the US oil companies drilled, no matter how much fancy (and expensive) technology in their toolkit they applied to the existing wells, they could not increase their rate of crude extraction. From that point on, for the US energy economy to grow, it had to import foreign crude.

Hubbert made other predictions. He predicted the world peak production would be reached in 2000. He could not have predicted, however, the OPEC embargo, a political decision that lowered production rates below market demand. This temporary decrease in production delayed Hubbert's world-wide peak arrival.

With knowledge of Hubbert's Peak coming, one would think policy makers would have been on the ball, making preparations for its arrival. The trouble might be that they did prepare, but in different ways. )
peristaltor: (Default)
By now I hope everyone out there has seen this story about computer viruses that store kiddie porn on computers. From the article:

Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they'll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal websites.

Whatever the motivation, you get child porn on your computer — and might not realize it until police knock at your door.

Let me briefly emphasize one salient element of that story, one probably glossed over by most, but which I feel cannot and should not be emphasized enough: the virus exploits PCs -- shorthand, as most know, for "personal computers," but almost universally acknowledged as "personal computers running a Microsoft operating system."

Don't get me wrong: I don't harbor a conspiracy-theory twitchy loathing for All Things Bill. I do, however, recognize that Microsoft's historical disregard for the security and integrity of its operating systems has finally produced consequences far too devastating to be ignored. For decades, it has built back-door access into all of its products, including the operating systems, specifically to enable features in its software that gave a Redmond a competitive edge. Of course, these back doors did not remain a secret. Once revealed, they became the means that enabled just about every virus writer to become a star in Black Hat shenanigans.

When the viruses were disseminating up to a third of all spam mailings, it was a problem. When the viruses made Command and Control slaves of PCs by the tens or hundreds of thousands, enabling one person to engage in Denial of Service attacks on anyone they felt deserved an attack -- including Live Journal -- it was a serious problem. But now that these back doors can ruin lives it is an unforgivable problem. We must all realize that Microsoft is culpable for enabling these malicious acts and should be held legally accountable.

This should be as much a turning point, as much a wake-up call, as much a call to legal action as Preston Tucker's indictment of the major automakers was when he installed seat belts and safety glass into his 1948 Tucker . . . "accessories" not found universally in other cars at the time.

If they have any energy to fight left in them, the Fiolas and others ruined by the legal entanglements they have faced should file suits against Microsoft until their settlement allows them to enjoy certain waterfront properties in Medina, Washington.


Sep. 3rd, 2008 12:13 am
peristaltor: (Default)
For you gardeners, please remember to lay your garden rakes down with the tines pointing into the soil. Why?

It enables you to walk around the garden without threat . . . or injury.

Right after I dropped to the ground quivering in pain, I heard my friend who witnessed it say, "Hey! It's Sideshow (Peristaltor)!" I only got the gag after I stopped shaking and bleeding.

peristaltor: (Default)
A few weeks ago, [ profile] kmo had a great interview on his C-Realm Podcast with Dennis M. Bushnell, chief scientist of the NASA Langley Research Center. Mr. Bushnell is, to say the least, an immensely qualified individual. Just listen to the introduction [ profile] kmo gives him. (If you don't have time for that, someone was good enough to transcribe the interview here. You can read instead or listen. I'll be using that transcription for my quotation source, with some corrections.) Mr. Bushnell touches on quite a few topics that interest me -- global warming, alternative energy, to name just a couple -- so I found myself listening to it on the iPod thingie more than once.

After the second listen, something started nagging me, a concept with which I found myself quite unfamiliar. Though he speaks well and concisely, Bushnell kept making references to atmospheric conditions I didn't understand. I thought it best to go and read the source Bushnell lists in the interview:

(T)here is a book which, I believe, will be considered a milestone in this whole energy and warming discussion and that is Peter Ward's recent book called Under (a) Green Sky.

I've read a few other Ward books, so this wasn't too much of a hardship. What I read scared the living crap out of me. )

After I read Green Sky, I put on the headphones and went for a walk with Dennis Bushnell once again. As low as Ward got me, something I missed from Bushnell hit me that much harder. )

X-posted to [ profile] boiling_frog.
peristaltor: (Default)
Every loyal reader should remember my co-worker Lenny, Star Trek geek and recently discovered Microsquish millionaire. He had an interesting weekend, it seems. His friend (whom I shall dub "Alf," or "Another Lenny Friend") came over with his son for a visit. In the course of yakking and general catching up, Alf noted that Lenny's Boy (13 years old) shouldn't be playing World of Warcraft, since it was a "bad influence."

If you ever want to wind up a parent, just question his or her rearing decisions. Lenny, avid WoW player himself, wished to know the logic behind Alf's proclamation. "Too violent" was the best Alf offered.

Okay, said Lenny to Alf, your son (8 years old) plays video games as well. What is he allowed to play? This list proved intriguing, coming from a guy who just slammed WoW: Splinter Cell, Halo, (several other First Person Shooters with which I am not familiar), and, of course, games in the Grand Theft Auto series.

So you're saying, continues Lenny, that Alf's Boy is better adjusted because Lenny's Boy plays WoW? That Alf's Boy is better able to resist violence and violent actions?

Yes, says Alf.

So they decide to prove it. Though steeped in redneck land, Lenny's place does not suffer from a dearth of tech toys. While the boys were playing outside, they rigged a webcam to Lenny's living room computer. They then brought out Lenny's weapons, the full arsenal. To attract the WoW in Lenny's Boy, they laid on the couch Lenny's Klingon Bat'leth, two Highlander-styled samurai swords, and a crossbow (without bolts). For the GTA kid, they added the shotgun, a 30/30 rifle, and Lenny's stainless Colt .45 automatic. All the firearms were unloaded, the ammo stored safely away. Then they called the boys in to the house and went down to the garage and watched the boys via the webcam.

For a good ten minutes, nothing much happened. Lenny's Boy logged onto WoW to show Alf's Boy his characters. After a while watching this, Alf's Boy gravitated to the couch and all the goodies. Alf's Boy picked up the .45.

"You better not touch that," said Lenny's Boy, "That's Dad's gun!"

"Why not?" said Alf's Boy, "It's just a toy."

The experiment was ended. Dads came upstairs. I imagine there was a bit of discipline meted.

It's just a toy. I grew up in a house stacked with firearms. I was taught at a very young age that they go boom, can do a lot of damage and they are alwasy loaded. By stark contrast, Alf's Boy plays GTA quite a bit, and other than the semi-automatic assault weapons available in the game, his favorite is the stainless automatic handgun. To him, a boy who had never picked up a real gun, they were all just toys.
peristaltor: (Default)

I've launched boats. I've been the guy on the boat while it is lowered (hopefully slowly) to the water. I really have no desire to be the guy in the second picture in freefall in the ladder well between the aft deck and the swimboard.

For you Photoshop accusers, here's the Snopes detail.
peristaltor: (Default)

What happens when severe rainfall is confined to sewer pipes. The pressure has to go somewhere.
peristaltor: (Default)
Folks, I would like you to imagine what your work commute could be.

Let's say you live East of Seattle and take Interstate 90 to work. Let's say the traffic, as is its wont, crawls, sometimes stopping. Let's say the car directly ahead of you stops suddenly. Too suddenly.

At this point, you have choices to make very quickly.

You might hit the car. This happens, but it would be unfortunate. To avoid an immediate collision, however minor, you might slam on your brakes and hope to stop in time. Since it is (let's just say) raining and the road wet on this hypothetical Thursday morning, you might not stop your sedan in time, and might tap bumpers with your leader. That would be a minor, work-delaying problem.

Or . . . you could swerve into the "empty" lane to your left, stop, and wait until you could merge once again to your original position.

That might work.

Let's say, though, that the lane to your left was reserved for High Occupancy Vehicles -- vehicles like, say, busses; and that, no, you had not been keeping an eye on your left mirror and, again no, had not checked the lane for true emptiness before you implemented the "accident-avoiding" maneuver.

You might learn very, very quickly -- after about 1.5 to 2 seconds after your lane change was completed, in fact again, purely hypothetically -- that the driver of the 60-foot articulated motorcoach laden with every seat filled might not have had sufficient time to anticipate your sudden change and complete stop, and might have had neither sufficient braking traction nor time (due not to driver inattention, but to the laws of physics) to safely avoid your red Taurus.

You might then suddenly accelerate as the inertia of tens of tons transfers directly through your bumper, through your trunk and into your chassis. Only a bit of that energy would be absorbed by the deforming metal. The rest might go straight into launching your car once again into motion. Since the coach was decelerating at the time of inertia transfer, you might come to rest again after lunging, say, twenty feet from the front of the coach. At 7:45 am. Pacific Daylight Savings Time.

Let's say you were wearing your seat belt and had a decent driver's seat, so after coming to rest, you found yourself shaken but otherwise unharmed. Let's further stipulate that none of the 60 passengers in the coach was standing (as often happens), and therefore no one in the coach was hurt by the much less sudden deceleration and stop. Which, again, would be good. Finally, we should of course imagine that the driver (ahem) had been wearing his seat belt and was at least able to brace himself before contact; so no one involved was hurt.

All of which, of course, is very, very good. . . or would be, were we not speaking completely hypothetically.
peristaltor: (Default)
Remember my coworker Lenny? Well, he came into work today with another doozy of a story involving threats to his family's safety thwarted only by the timely and judicious exercise of his Second Amendment rights.

This time, no shots were fired; but more guns involved. )
peristaltor: (Default)
On my thirteenth birthday, my Dad gave me the gift of a quote from Mark Twain:

When a boy turns 13, put him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16, plug up the hole.

For sometime now, I have wanted to tell a story I heard at work that illustrates what a freakin' handful the teenager can be. It's a good one. Longish, but featuring pedophiles greeted not with the bodies of young children, but with shotguns! And best of all, it's true. Really. )

And as much as I hope you are in some way entertained by this, do remember these assholes exist. Spread the word.
peristaltor: (Default)
Time to share another old sailor story, this one dealing not with naval arrogance or equipment "failure", but with good ol' fashioned human failings, myself being one of those humans. It's a tale that tells of the follies in which we human engage, misdeeds with noble intentions that present an ever-present threat to our very survival.

I used to work for Arrow Launch, running launch vessels and cargo delivery here in Puget Sound. Essentially, if you have a large freighter to serve with taxi service, or are delivering supplies to such a freighter, Arrow is the primary go-to company to call, Twenty-Four/Seven.

24/7. All day, everyday.  )
peristaltor: (Default)
After working boats now for almost 15 years, it's time I shared one of the most spetacular near-miss accidents that I witnessed, involving a grain freighter and the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. )


peristaltor: (Default)

August 2017

678910 1112
20 212223242526


RSS Atom

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 04:22 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios