The First Two Chapters Are Up

As mentioned a little while back, I am putting the blog on hold and writing a book.

O.k. I didn’t do such a good job of that (as the latest posts can testify) but that hasn’t stopped the book from coming along nicely.

They can read be read here.

I’d love to get some feedback on what I’ve done so far.  There is contact information in that post as well, if anyone wants more information.

The most of the book I am going to post online for free is the first three chapters (and very few graphs, and no appendices, which is where the pudding is, so to speak).  I am currently going between editing and writing (editing takes a lot longer).

I’ve always been a fan of the shareware model for software distribution and something of a fan of the street performer protocol as a way to make money and give stuff away at the same time.  That’s the only reason for the tease and, quite frankly, it’s high time I tried to sell a bit of my writing rather than just giving it away for free, as I have done for a good long while now.

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy it!

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Robots and Pirates in the News (Ninja absent…but they’re Ninjas…so…)

There have been major news stories in the last couple of weeks involving robots and pirates making war.  The ninjas are staying out of the spotlight, but as that is their nature, this shouldn’t be noted as evidence that they aren’t very busy.

First up, the pirates…

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) — Pirates who hijacked a crude oil tanker off the coast of Kenya are approaching a Somali port, the U.S. Navy says.

The Sirius Star — a crude “super tanker” flagged in Liberia and owned by the Saudi Arabian-based Saudi Aramco company — was attacked on Saturday more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya.

The crew of 25, including British, Croatian, Polish, Filipino and Saudi nationals, are reported to be safe.

U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet Cmdr. Jane Campbell said the super tanker weighs more than 300,000 metric tons and “is more than three times the size of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.”

Oil industry insiders say a tanker of this size can carry up to 2 million barrels of oil, and the ship’s operator, Dubai-based Vela International Marine Ltd, says it is fully laden.

[full story]

That piracy has been on the rise off Africa’s east coast is nothing new.  The general lawlessness of the area contributes to, well, lawlessness, which is an environment in which the pirate thrives.

One of the problems with this piracy issues is that people (governments and private companies) have been giving into pirate ransom demands to release ships and crew.  This then funds the pirates to attack more and bigger ships.  That super tanker mentioned above has over $100,000,000 worth of oil on it, and enough to cause a major environmental problem  (the Exxon Valdex spilled about 10 million barrels, this tanker has about 2 million…but cleanup would be severely problematic, see: pirates).

Not to be outdone, the Robots have also been making news around the world…

Pakistan has summoned the US ambassador in Islamabad to protest at a US missile attack deep inside Pakistani territory on Wednesday that killed five people.

The attack, in Bannu district, killed five local militants, officials say.

Previous drone attacks have been in the strip of territory along the Afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), a region where huge areas are under the control of militants rather than the central government.

But Bannu is in the North West Frontier Province where the government claims far more control.

“The American ambassador has been called to the Foreign Office to lodge a protest over the missile attack in Bannu,” a foreign ministry official told Reuters news agency.

The US embassy said that ambassador Anne Patterson would relay Pakistan’s concerns to Washington.

[full article]

Some intersting stuff there with the robots.  The U.S. has been using these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) or “flying robots” to take the fight to the enemy in places where it is quite difficult for leg-bearing humans to wander.

The question of using robots to fights one’s battles (which goes against something of the “warrior spirit”) is going to be an exercise left to the reader, but I can’t help but look at the news stories of the week and have the immediate reaction of…

…aim the robots at the pirates. 

Trust me, you want to get this whole thing resolved before the ninja make an appearance…which they won’t…poeple will just start dying.

With that truth in mind, you can see how the ninjas actually are in effect.  They’ve been a big part of the “Surge” in Iraq.  You don’t hear about exactly what they’ve done, and you won’t for years and years, but they’ve been very, very busy. 

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The dramatic drop in violence in Iraq is due in large part to a secret program the U.S. military has used to kill terrorists, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward.

The program — which Woodward compares to the World War II era Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb — must remain secret for now or it would “get people killed,” Woodward said Monday on CNN’s Larry King Live.

“It is a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have,” Woodward said.

In “The War Within: Secret White House History 2006-2008,” Woodward disclosed the existence of secret operational capabilities developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent leaders.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley, in a written statement reacting to Woodward’s book, acknowledged the new strategy.

[full story]

And there you have it.

The absolute latest in robot, pirate, and ninja news.

The Mark of the Atomic Age

For those of y’all that still haven’t come to grasp with the fact that humans have left an indelible mark on this planet, and have the ability to affect it quite profoundly, here’s the latest evidence…

Back in the 1950s, the Americans, the British, the French and the Russians tried to impress each other by “testing” atomic weapons. This involved blowing up multi-megaton bombs in the air in remote places, but the explosions didn’t stay local.

A Couple Of Extra Neutrons…

Each atomic blast released lots of neutrons into the atmosphere, many of which slammed into carbon atoms floating by with the result that lots of carbon atoms gained a couple of extra neutrons. If you remember your Periodic Table of Elements, carbon ordinarily carries 12 protons and neutrons. Add a couple of extra neutrons, and the 12 becomes 14. Which means during the 1950’s the world got a boost of carbon-14 atoms.

Those clouds of carbon-14 atoms didn’t stay at the bomb sites. “This cloud of carbon-14 went round and round and round the Earth and was persistent for quite a while,” says Professor Nadkarni.

When President Kennedy signed a test ban treaty with the Russians in the early 1960s, nations stopped blowing up bombs above ground and the population of carbon-14 in the atmosphere went down, but, from around 1954 to around 1963, trees all over the world sucked in extra dollops of carbon-14.

Trees don’t know the difference between regular carbon and carbon-14. They just breathe in carbon dioxide and use the sunshine to turn that CO2 into plant food stored in their trunks, so that if you look inside a tree, any tree, you can measure the carbon within. And here comes the big surprise.

An Atomic Bomb “Souvenir”

It turns out that virtually every tree that alive starting in 1954 has a “spike” — an atomic bomb souvenir. Everywhere botanists have looked, “you can find studies in Thailand, studies in Mexico, studies in Brazil where when you measure for carbon-14, you see it there,” says Professor Nadkarni. All trees carry this “marker” — northern trees, tropical trees, rainforest trees — it is a world-wide phenomenon.”

And, naturally, what goes for trees goes for others as well. In 2005, A Swedish stem cell biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Jonas Frisen, decided to see if he could date people using the same technique. Frisen had studied pine trees and knew about the carbon-14 atomic bomb spike.

He also reasoned that people eat the products of trees — apples, pears, peaches, olives, almonds, walnuts — and we also eat the animals that eat the fruits of trees, so he decided to see if atomic testing had affected human cells.

At a cellular level, he surmised, we are affected by what we eat and so he performed autopsies on two sets of humans: one group was born in the mid-1950s during the era of atomic testing. The second group was born later, in the ’60s, after the test ban treaty. When he examined some brain cells in both groups, he discovered that humans born in the ’50s had more carbon-14 in their DNA, so the spike we see in trees is echoed in humans.

Full story available at NPR.

I love the image of these titans, England, France, the U.S. and Russia,…all staring across the pond or the steepes and dropping mad-huge bombs while staring deep into eyes of their opponents, looking for a blink.

The idea of topping each other got waaay out of control and left us with both the C14-mark, and the knowledge how to make stuff that can do this…

The effects were spectacular. Despite the very substantial burst height of 4,000 m (13,000 ft) the vast fireball reached down to the Earth, and swelled upward to nearly the height of the release plane. The blast pressure below the burst point was 300 PSI, six times the peak pressure experienced at Hiroshima. The flash of light was so bright that it was visible at a distance of 1,000 kilometers, despite cloudy skies. One participant in the test saw a bright flash through dark goggles and felt the effects of a thermal pulse even at a distance of 270 km. One cameraman recalled:

The clouds beneath the aircraft and in the distance were lit up by the powerful flash. The sea of light spread under the hatch and even clouds began to glow and became transparent. At that moment, our aircraft emerged from between two cloud layers and down below in the gap a huge bright orange ball was emerging. The ball was powerful and arrogant like Jupiter. Slowly and silently it crept upwards…. Having broken through the thick layer of clouds it kept growing. It seemed to suck the whole earth into it. The spectacle was fantastic, unreal, supernatural.

Another observer, farther away, described what he witnessed as:

… a powerful white flash over the horizon and after a long period of time he heard a remote, indistinct and heavy blow, as if the earth has been killed!

A shock wave in air was observed at Dickson settlement at 700 km; windowpanes were partially broken to distances of 900 km. All buildings in Severny (both wooden and brick), at a distance of 55 km, were completely destroyed. In districts hundreds of kilometers from ground zero, wooden houses were destroyed, and stone ones lost their roofs, windows and doors; and radio communications were interrupted for almost one hour. The atmospheric disturbance generated by the explosion orbited the earth three times. A gigantic mushroom cloud rose as high as 64 kilometers (210,000 ft).Despite being exploded in the atmosphere, it generated substantial seismic signals. According to a bulletin of the U.S. Geological Survey it had seismic magnitude mb = 5.0 to 5.25. The blast wave was detected circling the world.[Khalturin et al 2005]

Some time after the explosion, photographs were taken of ground zero. “The ground surface of the island has been levelled, swept and licked so that it looks like a skating rink,” a witness reported. “The same goes for rocks. The snow has melted and their sides and edges are shiny. There is not a trace of unevenness in the ground…. Everything in this area has been swept clean, scoured, melted and blown away.”

[full article]

And now I’m supposed to be afraid of ignorant teenagers trying to look cool and find something to do in between goat-herding sessions?  [yes, that’s how this guy characterized a good part of the Afghan insurgency]

That’s the whole point of terror…it makes you think small threats are much bigger than they are.   Is terrorism a danger?  Sure.

It is a danger like the one talked about above?  I don’t think so.  Not even close, IMHO.  And the idea that someone can deliver a nuclear weapons without it being tracked home is absurd.  The UK busted Russia for the use of 10 micrograms of polonium.  No one is going to be able to hide where a few pounds of Uranium came from, or hide a project to create a viable delivery system.  MAD is still much in effect.

The simple fact that we all share the same air and the same trees and the same brains will eventually overpower the ignorance that allows such terror to fester, unless we let the terror guide our actions.

SCOTUS: Ping the Whales!

The Supreme Court, dividing 6-3, upheld the Navy’s power to use sonar in military training exercises, even though environmentalists claim that the technology threatens marine life in the training zone off the Pacific Coast.  Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote for the majority; there were two full dissents and one partial dissent.   The decision, the Court’s first ruling of the Term, came in the case of Winter (Navy Secretary) v. National Resources Defense Council, et al. (07-1239).

[full story]

The back story here is that Navy exercises off the coast of Cali have been purported (ha) to have adverse effects on marine mammals.

This is being studied….

Using satellite-linked and underwater listening tags to monitor movement and behavior, NOAA and partnering scientists tagged more than thirty individual marine mammals of four different species. They measured how deep-diving marine mammals feed, interact with one another, dive and respond to sounds in their environment in this pioneering pilot project carried out in conjunction with the Navy’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2008 exercises. 

[full story]

…but ultimatey the Court found that the results of the study don’t really matter.

Roberts wrote that “the Navy’s need to conduct realistic training with active sonar to respond to the threat posed by enemy submarines plainly outweighs” the environmental concerns raised by advocacy groups. “We do not discount the importance of [the challengers’] ecological, scientific, and recreational interest in marine mammals,” the opinion remarked.

It added: “Of course, military interests do not always trump other considerations, and we have not held that they do.  In this case, however, the proper determination of where the public interest lies does not strike us as a close question.”

So given that no data on the effect of active sonar on the whales or other marine life was considered, it can probably be assumed that nothing, up to and including extinction level interaction, really matters in this case.

Personally I would have like to see the Court wait until the data came back from the study to make a ruling, but as that would have gone beyond the time limit for the exercises [“The Court had heard argument in the case on Oct. 8, and moved comparatively rapidly to prepare the opinions because the specific round of sonar exercises the Navy is conducting are to be finished by January, at the latest.” ] this is just a “move-along, nothing to see here” ruling. 

The Court didn’t say whether or not the Navy should do such a study and to what degree it could affect their exercises, but then again, that’s not really what the SCOTUS does….usually

World Energy Use Like U.S. Debt : Patently Unsustainable

The International Energy Agency raised an alarm on Wednesday with the release of its annual report, saying that a revolution in the energy business is required to maintain economic growth and stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

The World Energy Outlook 2008 report, written for policy-makers, paints a troubling picture in terms of energy costs and the impact on global warming from burning fossil fuels. It calls for “radical action” from governments at all levels and a coordinated international response.

Although softening demand has pushed the price for oil down in the past year, the rising cost of extraction, combined with declining productivity rates at oil fields, means that the “era of cheap oil is over,” according to the report.

 

via IEA: worlds energy use is patently unsustainable | Green Tech – CNET News

—–

Essentially the problem is coming as 2,500,000,000 people jump into that 21st century lifestyle someone made look so cool.  And it is cool.

It’s so coo that people become so detached from the world around them, and outside their borders, it leads the world to the brink of disaster.

Which is exactly where we are headed and in some very serious ways.   The economic crisis is largely something of our own making.  A tide of decisions that allowed the bubble to build and burst.

When it comes to “energy policy” the tide that is building is the same type of superhuman need that forces action.  The drive for energy is very much the drive for life. 

It is my own humble opinion that the Iraq War was a big part of the Bush/Cheney “energy policy” that failed so miserably.  The idea was to fortify the oil defenses in the ME in the guise of “democracy” and keep China out of that pie.  This would curtail their meteoric growth and assure a century of cheap energy and a dominant U.S. economic position.   Such was the “Project For A New American Century”.

It failed miserably, in case you missed it.   Strangely, the insane supporters of that plan still have jobs, for some reason.

What happened is far different, with China cutting deals with Iran, insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan proving reliably resistant, and oil prices fluctuating wildly. 

What is going to happen if we don’t change, is bad.  Really bad.  Fallout 3 bad. 

Up above is thee graph to watch.  That’s the pressure cooker to keep an eye on. 

And note here: I’m not talking about global warming.   I’m talking about people fighting over energy, like we have since discovering fire.

Occasionally we’ll have people wander by and mention how it’s usually much more efficient to build with that fire, rather than kill with it.  And usually it is (for some, it always is).

The equation changes quite a bit however, when someone else has all that energy and all one have to do to take it is kill them.  Then the more efficient path changes.  

My whole point here is to avoid the scenario where that “more efficient path” becomes clear to those dealing with their own domestic clamoring hordes.  We avoid that scenario by doing two things, using less energy and finding better ways to make more.

Personally I think the first part of that solution is more important than the second, as it makes the second goal easier, but for some reason I expect to remain a minority in that opinion.

Calling for personal sacrifice when people are ready to party is never a popular opinion.    Yet that’s what the situation calls for.  I wonder who’s listening?

Obama Affirmitively-Actioned into Presidency (and other stuff Americans decid

I don’t know if you heard, but yea.  It’s a different world today.

And I’m very, very happy about it.

Obama Wins

Obama Wins

As I mentioned previously, this was a pretty big deal for me and a whole lot of folk.

As a quick note on the jocular title of the post….here’s the stats.

It turns out that saying Americans “retired” McCain would probably be one of the more accurate ways to explain the voting.  His age was a major concern for a lot of voters, which I think was accentuated by the Palin problem.

Ultimately, it turns out that people wanted to change the national (and Republican) policy of “concentrate the wealth” that we’ve been following for the past 30 years.  It seems that many think maybe “spreading the wealth” a bit could provide major dividends.  I happen to agree, for a number of reasons, mainly having to do with the idea that spreading some of the wealth will do wonders for many workers in the economic realm of “motivation.”

I thought this was a big deal also because of the world opinion.   It was something that didn’t show up on polls, and maybe was even a net-negative for Obama (in the weird world of U.S. politics), but I think it was Obama’s true stength, and that (r)ace-in-the-hole that will help a great deal in our negotiations with the rest of the world.

The whole world has to take a second look at the U.S.  A long hard second look.  And THIS IS A GREAT THING.   We’ve got a pretty amazing country here, and it’s something that many have forgotten, not the least of whom live here.  And now we’ve proved a great many people wrong.  Again.

We’ve raised the bar on Western democracy.  We’ve slapped racial bullshit in the face.  The United States of America elected a President who’s middle name is HUSSEIN.

You know what’s funny?  The only major demographic group, IN THE WHOLE WORLD, that is bothered rather than elated by this achievement of Martin Luther King’s dream of judgement on character over skin-color, is here in the U.S.  I hope and pray they’ll calm down and get it back together, I met some rather devastated people last night.  Some who genuinely believe we just elected a terrorist.  After all, his middle name is Hussein.

The world had become increasingly wary of this kind of U.S. after seeing some of our actions following 9/11.   World opinion was in a steady decline after Bush’s Choice to invade Iraq.   And Cheney’s Choice to torture some of the people we captured didn’t help either.  The CIA jetting around the world on black ops and weird rumors filled the air.  Any number of shady decisions and actions took place, the extent of which we may not know for years.

The decline in world opintion was precipitous, especially after the world’s sympathy was so quickly and openly offered to us after our own great tragedy.   In 2004, when the U.S. electorate endorsed the lies, and the war, and the torture, the world turned its collective back.

By 2006, we had stepped back a bit domestically, and I think we could see the peak of anti-U.S. opinion was probably in the 2005-2006 window.   By 2007, the world (and the U.S. electorate) was decided on Bush and kinda just ignored him.  Everyone had made their judgment and it was not good.   Once 2008 kicked in the world was watching to see what we would do.  Curious to see if their judgment of the 21st century U.S. was correct.  Looking back over their shoulder a bit, wondering if we’d regained our special-ness.

Our U.S.’ed-ness.

While the world judged Bush harshly, we did get that second (third, actually) chance to amaze the world.

And it would seem they approve.

With a couple of exceptions….

SUDANESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN ALI AL-SADIG

“We don’t expect any change through our previous experience with the Democrats. When it comes to foreign policy there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.”

…actually I guess that’s about the only exception.  He’s an exception because he knows the genocide his government is pursuing in Darfur is going to get some real attention now (one would HOPE).

That being said, there were some other big ballot initiatives around the country.

Looks like the Mormons and Catholics got their bigotry endorsed in Cali, Florida and Arizona, the “straight” states.  They are now like Iran, where gays don’t exist…or have less rights…is there a difference?

Women retained some degree of control over their own lives in South Dakota and Colorado, and it’s time to spark it up in Michigan and get that gloucoma under control.

Obama lost Nebraska, and black and women Nebraskans lost the ability to sue for “employment fairness” (on a serious note re: the title of this post…it’s going to be *really* hard to argue for expanded or even continued affirmitive actions programs in a lot of places…expect more of this).

Oregon knocked down the “stay culturally ignorant” rule and Washington is paging Dr. Kevorkian.

North Dakota and Taxachusetts both voted against tax cuts (!)cliche evidence(!), and you can finally lose your shirt on a riverboat in Missouri.  Previously, you could only lose your shoes.

All in all, it was quite a day.

WTW : Understanding the Economic Crisis, Part 1

Below you will find a video I made regarding the current economic crisis.  I explain where I think it came from, what happened, who profited, who lost, why, what we can do, and who should pay.

That is here…

The rest of the World This Week October 5, 2008 show should be up tonight or tomorrow morning.  The video is in the can, now it’s just editing time.  I think I did a decent job with the above video and learned a couple more tools.  Things should keep improving, and I should have a PIP debate in Part 2 of the Update.

Hope ya’ll are having a nice day, as more money evaporates from the computer harddisks of the world.   Watch the video to understand why.

It’s a Blue Planet, Although It *is* Snowing on Mars

Vote Obama or McCain: Global Electoral College | The Economist.

There’s a nice application over at the Economist that gives a feeling of how the world would vote if the concept of the United States’ “electoral college” was exported to the entire world.

Unsurprisingly, they favor the guy who is more their color.

Which is to say, blue (and off-white, to be honest).

To briefly extend the red-state/blue-state metaphor to one of global proportions, I would much prefer we live on a Blue Planet rather than a Red Planet.

The Blue Planet is beautiful and awe-inspiring.   Yes, sometimes vicious and cruel, but no more than is necessary.

The Red Planet is a planet of war and conquest (and a horrid movie).  It is a planet of heroes and tragedies.  Right now, however, we’re learning circumstances there are much stranger than previously thought.

September 29, 2008 (Computerworld) Forget trying to find evidence that there used to be water on Mars. Scientists from NASA said today that its instruments on the Red Planet have detected falling snow.

While the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the planet, the Phoenix Mars Lander has been sitting on the northern pole of the planet for several months, testing Martian soil samples for any materials — including water-ice — that could support life. A robotic arm on the lander has dug up pieces of ice, and the orbiter has sent back pictures of what look like old fractures in the planet’s surface, and trails of waterways.

Scientists today added to that mounting list of scientific Martian discoveries with evidence of falling snow. “Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars,” said Jim Whiteway, lead scientist for the Canadian-supplied Meteorological Station on Phoenix. “We’ll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground.”

[full story]

I think the metaphorical implications of this latest discovery are quite revealing.  A planet (or politician) once thought to represent all that was glorious in war, is actually kind of cold and crying on the inside.  The sadness never quite makes it all the way out, and the devils of the past remain evident, yet the full picture piques curiousity more than respect.  We end up feeling more of a distant pity than a searing loyalty.

And so it is with the man who wants to lead a Red Planet, as the global poll numbers would suggest.

Drill, Baby, Drill!!!

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House, responding to growing public demand for more domestic energy, voted Wednesday to end a quarter-century ban on oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, giving Republicans a major victory on energy policy.

An extension of the ban for another year was left off a $630 billion-plus stopgap government spending bill that President Bush had threatened to veto – possibly shutting down the government – if the anti-drilling measure were included.

The bill was approved 370-58 and now goes to the Senate, where it is likely to be approved within the next few days, also without the drilling ban.

WWL – AM870 • FM105.3 | News • Talk • Sports | OnDemand@1350 – AP – content.

My guess is that if Obama is elected, we’ll probably see a bit of a drawback on thiis one.  If McCain/Plain are elected, it will be expanded.

Opening up drilling doesn’t do much for now, but might help a tiny bit in the future.  If we structure the deals right, we could make some money, but without real pressure, expect to get raped like we were before.

WASHINGTON — As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

[full story]

What this group did was collect money on the oil and gas we are already letting be “drill, baby, drilled”.  This office was rife with corruption as the profits involved in the gas business, and the payments tied to them, have skyrocketed in recent years.  What Big Oil realized was that by boozing and blowing certain humans that represented the government, they could avoid paying any extra taxes on those record profits.

This was one of the tactics in their strategy to maximize shareholder value.  And is something that would be multiplied a couple-fold by allowing more drilling (it’s really not going to change the equation that much).

The World This Week By Wah : September 14, 2008 : Part 1 of 2

Here is the first part of my new weekly feature.  I had to split it into two parts because of youtube limits (still working of finding a better place that works well.  Enjoy.  I should have the second half availabe in the mornig.

Doing the video stuff is easy.  Doing the editing is taking a while, but I am getting better at it.  You’ll probably want to view these in full screen to read the text.