Thursday, July 1, 2010

Strange stuff

I was on the train and thinking, see, they say "please report any suspicious people..." etc. Which sounds reasonable, except that when I looked around, well there seemed to be a lot of suspicious people. I mean realistically I would have to arrest about half of them.

I don't know if that makes me antisocial or not, but there really are some very suspicious looking people. In fact a lot of people just seem seriously messed up. And what is it with singing to yourself when everyone can hear, I mean I have never ever ever heard someone singing along to their ipod or whatever that doesn't sound shite.

Or putting it another way if your singing was that good, you wouldn't be on the train or bus anyway. Technically I think the proper word is delusional. Fucked in the head also comes to mind.

Speaking of which, why are people using BCE in history? Worse, historians seem to have come up with BCE - Before Common Era. Instead of BC - Before Christ. The thing is unless my history is really really wrong, the whole western calender is based on the supposed year of Christs birth....so umm...is political correctness really that stupid? I mean if you dont like it to be based on Christ, then you need to actually do it properly and no longer let it be 2010 also.

Seriously the stupidity that goes on these days is nuts. Oh and I read in the paper a push to encourage people to use electric vehicles....great....and also issues over new sources of power....So again, perhaps it's just me - but ummm where do electric cars get their electricity from???

Dumb question I guess...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Slavery

I was thinking about the Illiad, I am still not sure why it seems so strange that a war would be fought over a woman, or at least as a pretext.

Anyway the archeology supports the idea of slavery in Mycenea through the linear B tablets, which makes sense. Even the idea that Troy 6 in addition to gaining income from Horses and Wool, such as is mentioned by Homer, additionally was an important slave trading centre.

There are of course comparisons to modern slavery such as what still happens in parts such as the mid east and North Africa, and of course the American slave trade. Obviously there are different extremes of slavery, such as what happened in the Americas and what I saw recently in China. And the Greek and generally ancient view of slavery seems to have been more moderate in some ways.

Looking back though with a historical eye, people say things like "How could people do that?". Which seems like a fair question. Fundamentally though I think it is ignorant and hypocritical. At various times through history, it has been accepted as the norm. So people of the time generally saw nothing wrong with it, with a few exceptions such as Wilberforce and others.

So to Mycenae, the records indicate things like 500 women from Asia, how much they ate, and all sorts of accounting details such as children they had etc. There are lots of such records right through to modern times.

What really has me wondering though, is if someone in some hypothetical future were to look through a companies accounting records....what would they think? Would they think we are a slave owning society? Would they say "how could people in 2010 do that?".

So by now your thinking I am nuts, extrapolating from say 1300 BC to modern times. But how many people are really free? How many people are really free not to go to work tomorrow?? Do you really have a choice? Their history is kept not on clay tablets or ledgers anymore, but in computer records - think HR department. (Actually think about what HR really means...Human Resources....a human commodity). How many children you have...are you healthy...are you a good worker...

It is actually worse, since we are also slave owners, but rather than having a slave in our house, we purchase cheap goods made by a slave somewhere else. Is it extreme to say this? I dont think so, how free do you think the people that make your cheap stuff in China for 26$ a month are? The kids that make your shoes in Pakistan?

It just seems to me that we are still a slavery based society, although we a regulated and indirect in it. If your slave gets sick, you can't let them die anymore, instead you send them to the company approved doctor who will then give them an MC - if you deserve it, or the doctor feels sorry for you.

Just saying......

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vulturine Guineafowl

Another quick one, well as quick as I seem to be able to do watercolours. The Vulturine Guineafowl of Africa. In this case coming through the grass.

Political Satire

Here is the typical way politicians react to "issues". These guys used to be on tv once a week in Australia, usually pretending to be a politician being interviewed.

In this case over a tanker accident in 91.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oil Economics

Now I don't think my economics is that brilliant, but the stuff coming out of America is in the funny if it wasn't serious category. I mean suddenly all for regulation - even Sarah Palin, who BTW I agree is definite MILF material, but not sure about much beyond that. I must say the glasses and tight t-shirts do work for me though. That sexy librarian look...

But it gets even wackier...I like the sieze BP stuff. Err unless my history is wrong, isn't siezing public companies what the communists did? Not to mention that it is not even a US company, and that it is owned by - get this - shareholders around the world. You know people like your parents, your nieghbours - hmmm probably yourself. I mean what do you think happens to the money in that superannuation/ (401K) retirement accounts?

The boycot stuff is just as amusing, oil is used for far more than "putting gas in the tank", you know like nearly every plastic, your nylon socks for example. I mean if you can get rid of all of that, sure go for it. Don't forget to take the paint off your house also. Even your kids paints also.

Then there are all the wacky theories, ignoring the fact that you just have an oil company doing what oil companies do. That is get away with as much as possible. Why? Because they are answerable to the shareholders, not the white house. And shareholders want profits right?

The Bankcruptcy idea, seems logical in theory...if BP has to pay x amount they will be broke. The trouble is, in the real world who really thinks they are going to pay? Case in point Exxon, also didn't they just settle something on Bopal the other day? almost 30 yrs later...This is just typical stuff in the corporate handbook, make it look like your doing stuff, then get the Lawyers in. In truth alot of the people suing BP today will be dead before they get anything beyond the 5k handout. In that way BP was lucky they screwed up in the US, one of the worlds weirdest legal systems...Not to mention they were working with Halliburton and Transocean, so even deciding who is responsible will take 5 or 10 years.

Not that it is really an issue, but legally it is a cool move. Since nothing can be done until you even figure out who is liable.

They also have government on their side, beyond the kick ass stuff "did i sound angry for the cameras?", the oil industry generates about 12 trillion in revenue for the US treasury, so no they are not going to want to mess that up. If they crucify BP then other companies will stop doing the drill baby drill thing there also. After all they don't have to drill in the US. At best they add sensible regulation, which increases pump prices and basically drop the soap in shower block A on the pseudo US recovery.

Really the Lawyers must be thinking all their dreams have come true here. Even all those southern legal dudes that were quick to get their billboards up...on a no win no fee basis, how many of them are going to stick out 10+ years of legal hacking for no fee??? They are better of concentrating on the chick that slipped on a french fry...

And it gets a bit nuttier, since the US has some of the cheapest gasoline prices in the world - alongside the radical communist states... Which means that of course things can be done cleaner and safer....but do people really want to pay more for it?

And lastly turning up at your local BP and slagging them off, or boycotting them...how connected to BP do you really think they are? Do you really think the other oil companies are so much better?

So yeah I really do feel sorry for the people along the gulf, they are just going to get charmed, screwed, then dumped. Worse they will get DP'ed by the oil industry and the government. Everyone going around..."but they said they would call..." There is simply too much money involved to let a few fishermen and Pelicans get in the way. Even Disneyworld in Florida is expendable on the scale of the oil industry.

This is one of those things were the average person is just too small. It is in nobody elses interest to actually do anything. The white house just wants it to fade out of the living rooms, the oil company couldnt really care less other than shutting people up and stalling, and the lawyers and brokers will happily go along for the ride.

Of course I could be completely wrong, and sensible regulation is introduced, oil continues to flow - cleanly, everyone is compensated fairly, and the oceans and coasts are cleaned up...and they all lived happily ever after....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eutrophication

So I am having breakfast and have been thinking more about eutrophication. The gulf is bothering me on lots of counts, one is that it was in trouble before this mess. Eutrophication is roughly were there is an increase in nutrients in an ecosystem. Which generally turns out to be bad.

Bad in the sense that it kills things, and it is generally hard to resolve. We tend to think of ecosystems being balanced in terms of plants and animals, but everything has to be balanced - meaning chemistry also. All biological systems operate with just the right amount of this and that in the system.

Fresh water is a bit easier to understand, so we can begin there. Wastes create ammonia, nitrites and then nitrates. The microbial populations are there already to convert one to the other. Nitrates are the less harmful and can then be used by plants. This is the nitrogen cycle, and why you need to let fish tanks operate a week or two prior to putting fish in.

Now if you suddenly start adding extra stuff here and there, then there is always a lag as the microbial populations catch up. And that is what happens in places like the gulf on a massive scale each summer.
There are lots of cycles happening like this, and seawater is much more complex in terms of chemistry, there are carbonate cycles for example which many marine animals depend on for making their skeleton or home. Corals absorb carbonates and release carbonates, and of course that is influenced by other factors of equilibrium. To go further, as the ph changes equilibriums change, eg. ammonia <> ammonium and so on.

The point is that they are very complex systems. Nature can compensate very well in most cases, but there are limits. So fundamentally I am starting to wonder what the limits are.

In case of the gulf it was already suffering massive dead zones each year from nutrient rich runoff. Think algae bloom then you get into problems of low light at depth, remember much benthic marine life depends on that light. And to make it worse at night the algae like all plants absorb oxygen. Then at the end of summer it all dies, decomposes and uses more oxygen from the water column.

So that is how you end up with hypoxic conditions, or in real terms a dead zone each year in the gulf the size of New Jersey.

Anyway I have heard reports about how oil decomposing bacteria will breakdown the oil - and use up oxygen. Which makes sense but here is where the experiment begins.

I cant remember the exact numbers, but the surface oil is over a huge area blocking out light in the middle of summer over a highly eutrophic zone. To make it worse, dissolved oxygen falls with increasing temperature.So straight off you will have algae population collapse - which really shouldn't have been there in the first place... Then the zooplankton go next - including this years spawning marine life, and on up the chain everything starts dying.

And we havent even got into straight out toxicity from the oil itself and worse the dispersant used. So eventually you get to a point where everything is dead - the death creating more hypoxic and eutrophic conditions and on and on.

So I am wondering ok, how does that runaway scenario stop? As far as I can tell not easily. If it was a river or open ocean, then there is more outflow, eg. Denmark or the Japan Sea as better examples of bad cases. In the case of the gulf the currents are actually weird. It takes a long time to flush out through the Florida Strait. The loop current means stuff can circulate there for years. (There must also be a fundamental limit to even what the open oceans can take also, but the larger scales help).

I suppose it is academic wondering, but it has got me thinking purely in terms of "how much can it take?"
I also should say I am not in the serious hippy category, but I am smart enough to know that the planet is a small place, and resources are finite. If the 500 000 tons of seafood (or whatever the number is) is no longer reaching peoples tables, then it means that they will find the food somewhere else. So it is a serious global problem. "Ok no shrimp...we will take the chicken wings..."

Reading the news - more oil

Ok so it is early morning and I woke early, and am bumming around at 5am waiting on food to cook. So I do the usual and read the news.

So honestly I really don't get most of it. I have always had a suspicion I have mild autism. In the category of thought...is it me or them??

So back to the minor little miniscule oil leak in the Gulf...I read an article "questions asked", well I did't really see the questions, let alone the sensible questions. You know the sort that are like - If you think you are going to get 28000 bpd next week when you get more ships, and you are getting 15000 per day now - doesnt that mean by your own calculations at minimum 13000 barrels are still leaking per day?

This is just bizzare. Apparently they have had no idea, but I find it hard to imagine oil companies going around drilling holes with no idea how much they are going to get out. Let alone the obvious fact that the thing was in place - before it screwed up - so someone must have a real idea.

Incidentally I was asked for my own opinion on the matter, I took the safe bet at around 50k bpd. I wouldn't be suprised if it is even higher though.

Of course we also have the corruption of science on a major scale now. NOAA finally come out with ...err yeah there seems to be something there...this was after outright denial for weeks, even after other expeditions had independently reported the plumes.

Still we were all left with the brilliance of "oil floats on water...".

Anyway I am really thinking it must just be me. Let alone getting into other world news.