Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Music players have changed, evolving from sticks and stones and drums and violas to a box as big as a TV set, with chunky moving parts. Now we have a stick again, in the case of the iPod shuffle. Truly nifty, light, cool and convenient, even with today's flatscreens and cellphone cameras, it's amazing to have so many rock bands and orchestras fitting into something so elegant, and so slim. The iPod is a truly intelligent product, with the unusual feature of a design that makes it seem almost friendly. Posted by Picasa

My iPod Shuffle Review
by Russell Beattie

It’s definitely sleek, and comes with a little strap that goes around your neck (that Apple calls imaginatively a “lanyard” - I’ve never seen that word before in my life). All you get in the package is the “stick”, the lanyard, an extra USB plug cap (in case you don’t feel like walking around with it hanging around your neck), two white Apple stickers and the iTunes set up disk. Oh, and a little laminated card which explains the controls and what the embedded red, amber and green LEDs on the front and back of the Shuffle mean (battery levels mostly). There’s no power charger, it gets its juice solely from your USB slot when it’s plugged in. And on a Windows PC at least, when you plug it in, it looks just like another drive like any of the number of other flash-based players out there.

There’s just two play modes - straight through and shuffle. I find it incredibly amusing that Apple’s marketing department has successfully compensated for the fact that the device doesn’t have a display for navigating your music and folders by making a standard feature on all music devices the key selling point of the music player. “Life is random” Honestly, only Apple could get away with it. Which they have and I feel good about it. They should have classes at major institutions which do nothing but study Apple marketing. I’m reading the Tipping Point now, and in the first few pages it talks about how American industry has two main competitive advantages left: Inventive technology and Marketing. This device is definitely on the latter side of that equasion.



Today was unsettled and unsettling.

I made some calculations. Based on those, the fact that my electricity bill was so high and unexpected (almost W400 000 for 2 months), and the extra teaching is supposed to be an agreement stretching at least until December, I started considering doing exactly that. But staying one more month (after November)is out of the question.

The kids were rambunctious, but possibly with good reason. Today is the last day of vacation from their public schools - the real drainer of their lifeblood.
So I asked one kid, whose English is about the best in the school, I asked him:
"Alex, so how do you feel about going back to school tomorrow."
I had a kid throwing chips and biscuits into a fan, other kids shoving their feet at each other for them to smell, one little boy attacked another (hitting him in the face) after a rock, paper, scissors duel turned sour. Plenty of shouting, and shouting from me, but by now they know it's just words and shouts from me. They know now that I'm not going make them do anything.

I am just bored to tears. Minjung, the girl I met yesterday, a programmer, decided not to take this job. She pertinently asked me what I thought about the students. She would have seen for herself how lethargic and pathetic a lot of them are. It't not their fault. They're just easing into the comfortable space that a lack of discipline creates. If your school has a bozo structure, you're going to turn the students and teachers there into bozos. No big surprise there.
It's to her credit that she didn't settle for this place.
Pity though, I would have enjoyed her company and conversation I think. She seemed clever and shy, which is always an interesting combination.

I also felt bloated for most of the day. Just ate too much at Outback. Fell asleep on the way back, on the bus, and very nearly missed my stop. I need to find a pillow soon.

August Revisited

Some of you may remember, at the beginning of this month, I had gone through 3 diaries and found dire events in all three during the month of August. So I made a suggestion to myself: Beware of this month. It brings turmoil and transformation.

Indeed it has.
We're now in record oil territory, the 70's now instead of the 60's.
We've had a month of mayhem, war and anti-war protests.
For me personally I've nearly been fired.
One of my co-workers has given birth.
One of my best friend's has just broken up with his girlfriend.
One of the worst storms in US history has hit, and when it seemed it had spared us a fate that seemed too 'doomsday', the next day arrived with ever swelling waters
My weight has ballooned, and sleep patterns worsened even more (today is the last day of the month, and the first Wednesday in weeks where I am simply too tired to go and swim and then only eat dinner at 10pm).
And then there are other things that have happened that I won't even mention.

I wonder how many people found August to be a good month? I guess 'good' is the wrong word. It's just about change, and change is just what it is. It's only when we resist it and judge it that it can seem an unpleasant new reality.

Today is the last day of the month, and it has been an extremely muggy, filthy, sweaty, grimy day. The air has a steamy look and the skin feels slightly irritated by the junk in the air that touches against it.

Note to Planet Earth: It's the end of August, and tomorrow is September 1st. That means the beginning of spring in South Africa. So please start letting things cool down here!

What Have We Done To Deserve This? Quite A Few Things

 Posted by PicasaKatrina's real name
By Ross Gelbspan | August 30, 2005

THE HURRICANE that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.

When 124-mile-an-hour winds shut down nuclear plants in Scandinavia and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the driver was global warming.

When a severe drought in the Midwest dropped water levels in the Missouri River to their lowest on record earlier this summer, the reason was global warming.

In July, when the worst drought on record triggered wildfires in Spain and Portugal and left water levels in France at their lowest in 30 years, the explanation was global warming.

When a lethal heat wave in Arizona kept temperatures above 110 degrees and killed more than 20 people in one week, the culprit was global warming.

And when the Indian city of Bombay (Mumbai) received 37 inches of rain in one day -- killing 1,000 people and disrupting the lives of 20 million others -- the villain was global warming.

As the atmosphere warms, it generates longer droughts, more-intense downpours, more-frequent heat waves, and more-severe storms.

Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

The consequences are as heartbreaking as they are terrifying.

Unfortunately, very few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue.

The reason is simple: To allow the climate to stabilize requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent. That, of course, threatens the survival of one of the largest commercial enterprises in history.

In 1995, public utility hearings in Minnesota found that the coal industry had paid more than $1 million to four scientists who were public dissenters on global warming. And ExxonMobil has spent more than $13 million since 1998 on an anti-global warming public relations and lobbying campaign.

In 2000, big oil and big coal scored their biggest electoral victory yet when President George W. Bush was elected president -- and subsequently took suggestions from the industry for his climate and energy policies.

As the pace of climate change accelerates, many researchers fear we have already entered a period of irreversible runaway climate change.

Against this background, the ignorance of the American public about global warming stands out as an indictment of the US media.

When the US press has bothered to cover the subject of global warming, it has focused almost exclusively on its political and diplomatic aspects and not on what the warming is doing to our agriculture, water supplies, plant and animal life, public health, and weather.

For years, the fossil fuel industry has lobbied the media to accord the same weight to a handful of global warming skeptics that it accords the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the United Nations.

Today, with the science having become even more robust -- and the impacts as visible as the megastorm that covered much of the Gulf of Mexico -- the press bears a share of the guilt for our self-induced destruction with the oil and coal industries.

As a Bostonian, I am afraid that the coming winter will -- like last winter -- be unusually short and devastatingly severe. At the beginning of 2005, a deadly ice storm knocked out power to thousands of people in New England and dropped a record-setting 42.2 inches of snow on Boston.

The conventional name of the month was January. Its real name is global warming.

Ross Gelbspan is author of ''The Heat Is On" and ''Boiling Point."

© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.

"Wanna go for a swim, or stay here and drown?" Posted by Picasa

This is a Korean built training jet. Quite nifty. Posted by Picasa

37/3 Early Start

Slept reasonably well, and then went to Starbucks in Juyeop to meet Lauren.

A lady there offered to buy a both coffee; I had a delicious caramel frap. Then we visited two kindergartens where they introduced me to the staff, nice, and the little bodies running around. Both schools seem quite nice, and a nice little earner for a while. I did though, feel the energy begin to drain out of me - there are a LOT of kids in these classes. Fortunately I'll just teach one day on, one day off, and I can use my own material.

After that, although I was keen on getting back to pay my phone bill, the lady recruiter offered to buy us lunch at Outback. I thought it would be a small one, but she ended up ordering 3 multiple course lunches. And kept prodding us to eat more. I ended up feeling very stuffed.

Made it back in time to pay my KT bill, and also figured out that there's a special booth for paying bills that doesn't have lots of people waiting around it. I've gone there before and waited in front of the main counters for more than 20 minutes.

Will try to get a swim in tonight.
I start my extra teaching next week.

Kunstler Making Sense - Part Two

by Dmitry Podborits

On a more general ground, it is interesting to revisit the earlier made point that when supply/demand imbalances occur, the structure of the society changes in response. This goes very contrary to the central dogma of "freakonomics" (which is really traditional economics in disguise), that as supply/demand imbalances occur, mysterious market forces "make sure" that the adequate substitute is found, irrespective of the laws of physics, chemistry and geology.

Basically, this means that the structure of any observed society (that is not in a state of flux or discontinuity) reflects the balance between supply and demand of all critical commodities, existing in that society.
It also means that when new types of products, services and commodities become available through, say, geological discoveries or the efforts of inventors and innovators, or opening of the new trade routes, the demand for them does not occur immediately, but only builds up gradually and with much effort and large energy expenditures (witness, for example, the enormous expense companies go through in order to get their product accepted in the market), because such penetration of the new product into society essentially means restructuring the society around the newly available product.

This is illustrated by the history of penetration of absolutely indispensable items into the current North American living arrangement such as automobiles, computers, mobile phones and commercial airliners. Take away any one of them (much less several of them), and the structure of the society will change dramatically. However, when these items were introduced, they did not get incorporated into the then-existing living arrangement immediately and without effort. When they finally gained widely acceptence, they forced change, or restructuring, of then-existed living arrangement.

There is an observable diminishing returns effect here: further innovations do not create demand for new products if the new products do not "knock out" already established products occupying the same niche in the existing living arrangement. Thus, a person who was forced to buy a new computer (maybe even reluctantly) when the societal structure changed around him so much that the computerless life no longer adequately worked, may have less incentive to upgrade, even if the new computer, on its own, is overall better, cheaper and shinier.

In this light, maybe certain utterances commonly ridiculed as shortsighted may be viewed more charitably in the new context. Take, for example, the famous pronouncement of a top IBM executive circa 1950 that in the entire world there is market for maybe five computers. That statement reflected the realities of the living arrangement of the time, that's all. Yes, it is an absurd statement from today's standpoint because it would take tremendous changes in the societal structure to have computers as ubiquitous as we observe them today.

However, it is extremely hard even for a very smart person immersed in the daily realities of his busy life to imagine, let alone anticipate, the changes in the societal structure that are lying ahead.

It may be just as difficult for some to imagine the extent and the direction of the societal changes that will result from the supply/demand imbalance (from today's arrangement's standpoint) in the energy supply. This is another notion that freakonomists ridicule without realizing how vulnerable and superficial their criticism looks.

For example, is it possible that in the post-Peak Oil world the price for oil would decline? Yes, of course it is possible -- without even finding the adequate substitute for oil. For example, disappearance of commercial airlines from the historic scene and inability of air travel for most people would make it possible (for a while).

Now, a society without air travel would be a differently structured society, wouldn't it? It would solidly fall within the "other arrangement" notion. There go a lot of things currently taken for granted, such as high mobility, tourism, globalization, and so on. But yes, it is possible -- within the context of a perfect market economy. I would even venture to assert that it is far more probable than finding an adequate substitute for oil. This kind of a change would fit well within the currently understood natural laws scheme.

Is it difficult to imagine a world where some of the ingredients for something like affordable air travel might not be adequately available, and it would have never, so to speak, taken off? Wouldn't our current necessities deemed indispensable today in the easy air travel world seem strange and foreign to people inhabiting that, alternative, living arrangement?

The "efficient markets" religion is so pervasive that people who make pronouncements in the spirit of the freakonomists do not even stop to look around them and think what they are really saying. Where does it come from that a perfect market society has to satisfy every human need?

Well, here is an example of a market society which is still relatively very wealthy: the United States circa 2005. And here is a basic need which even an economist would not dare to dispute: adequate health care for its population. In this society with about 40 million medically uninsured (some of which resort to pulling out their own decaying teeth with pliers, as Malcolm Gladwell reports in The New Yorker), and with the medical care and insurance industries virtually in the crosshairs of the economic "science", how can this market aberration be possible?
Clearly, this need in healthcare can be satisfied under some other living arrangement, as evidenced by countries where we do not observe such a large contingent without medical care. No laws of physics, chemistry and geology would need, most likely, to be changed for that; maybe only something in the public psychology and the currently existing system of priorities and values. What makes people think that under dramatic increases in the cost of energy, much reduced mobility, etc. other life support systems in the currently arranged society (such as, for example, food production and distribution, law enforcement, finance, government services, etc.) will perform better than the healthcare performs currently?

Finally, I'd like to observe the following seeming paradox from the "efficient markets will satisfy every need" standpoint.
I note that many of the residents of Manhattan, as a segment of the US population, are doing better financially than the average, and have more discretionary income. Some of these well-off Manhattanites happen to be economists, and some happen to like horses at the same time.

As it presently stands, horse breeding is generally incompatible with the life in Manhattan. Therefore, the stables in which the economists' keep their horses are typically located far from Manhattan, in places like Long Island, New Jersey and Upstate New York. This circumstance creates, I would assume, a major inconvenience for the economists who visit their hooved friends during the weekends (consider the stress of long distance driving, tunnel tolls, road rage, harassment by truck drivers and other unpleasant circumstances).

It would have therefore followed from the efficient market principle that the economists would be willing to pay extra, if someone figured out a way, or a substitute, that would allow them to keep horses right there, in Manhattan and avoid the inconveniences.
It is possible that someone already tinkered with, say, breeding smaller and smaller horses to fit a Manhattanite's lifestyle, but such substitutes didn't take off, probably because they wouldn't provide the potential clientele with the adequate horse experience. So, this way or another, the current economists' living arrangement for those of them who combine both horses and Manhattan in their lives has been restructured around certain inconveniences. The inconveniences, it appears, are here to stay.

I wonder, how this discrepancy might be explained by the freakonomics worldview.
Dmitry Podborits was born and grew up in Odessa, (then the USSR).
He immigrated to the US in 1991.
He specializes in analytical software for interest rate derivatives
and works in a major investment bank in New York City.

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If she can run, so can you.  Posted by Picasa

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By Carl Mortished

“SEND us Liberty ships filled with European gasoline. We could use some now.”
That was the exasperated response of one Wall Street energy analyst to questions about Hurricane Katrina. No one yet has a clue what long or even short-term damage the great storm has done to America’s offshore oil industry.

What the forecasters do know is that ten refineries on the Gulf coast are out of action or running at severely reduced rates. Stocks of gasoline (petrol) are already below normal levels in the United States and a key pipeline that delivers Gulf oil products to New England is shut.

Liberty ships, the merchant vessels that kept Britain in supplies during the Second World War, would not be big enough to meet the demand. What is certain is that American oil companies will now be rushing to charter large tanker ships to load cargoes of unleaded petrol from European refiners for delivery at ports on the US east coast.

Over the past decade the oil industry has become a just-in-time business and any significant disruption to one part of the infrastructure has major consequences down the chain.

Spotter planes were flying over the Gulf of Mexico yesterday, seeking signs of damage at the hundreds of platforms and rigs that cover the sea like a pin-cushion. Shell, which was forced to shut down 420,000 barrels a day of crude output, reported signs of damage to Mars, its largest platform in the Gulf, but was unable to give details. Two drilling rigs chartered by the company were adrift and Shell was trying to bring them to shallow water for repairs. Until the platforms can be boarded for inspection, no one can predict a return to full output.

At the moment, almost the entire US Gulf oil production capacity is out of commission, some 1.4 million barrels a day, and more than 80 per cent of its gas output. Last year’s passage of Hurricane Ivan, a lesser storm, might be one measure. Huge sub-sea currents damaged a pipeline on the sea-bed, causing a shortfall of 500,000 bpd for more than a month. Even today, some offshore facilities have not been fully repaired from the Ivan damage.

Adam Sieminski, an oil analyst at Deutsche Bank in New York, reckons the operation of wells is only part of the equation.

“You can produce crude but what if there are no refineries? They don’t have electricity and you can’t run refineries without electricity,” he said. Eight refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi were were shut yesterday and a further two were running at low rates, their total output representing almost 15 per cent of US refining capacity.

If experts are loath to make predictions, the same cannot be said of speculators and traders who can see profits from a price squeeze. Wholesale petrol futures jumped from less than $2 on Friday to $3 a gallon, well above the average retail price of $2.60 a gallon. Ships will soon be heading east for supplies and Mr Sieminski worries about a coup de grâce.

“The hurricane season has two months to go,” he said.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

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New Orleans levee breaks & A break in Concentration

It's interesting that when President Bush shows concern for a faraway people living in fear of their lives (I mean the Iraqi's under Saddam Hussein) he sends in the troops to help them bring about democracy, to bring them freedom, to save them from tyranny. To protect them, and the whole world from the terrorists. When his own citizens are living in fear of their lives, and too poor to leave, he says, "We'll pray for you."
Someone I spoke to recently said that the elites hate the middle class. They want a radical divide. The ultra rich, and the downtrodden poor. The downtrodden are so easy to push around. It's the middle class who are stronger, better informed and more capable of insurrection.

I often read about reports in newspapers finding hypocrisy in Bush policy. That should not be under debate. We can spend hours demonstrating who said what, and what is actually happening. We can spend years waiting to see empty promises bankrupt themselves. Or we can do what guys like Chomsky are doing and saying: activated and pondering what the real strategy is.
The dumb are those who believe what our political leaders tell us. It is totally different thing to begin to calculate what the strategic benefit (ostensibly to a limited number of powerful people) is.

In Africa for example, and Angola in particular, civil war helps those controlling the oil supplies divert funds away from the population who needs services and infrastructure, and into oil and weapons.
Thus, the longer the war goes on, the more the country's population is wiped out, but, importantly, the richer the elites, the controllers become. They want war. They want the masses weak and suffering. It allows them to rule the roost in comfort and without threat.

Bush has family investments in oil and weapons. Go figure he doesn't want the war in Iraq to end, and do you think he cares about a higher oil price?
Does he care about the dead and dying soldiers in Iraq?
He cares about everyone thinking he cares about the lower classes. Once people wake up, his game is up.
It seems there is an awakening, but just an awakening of thoughts.
What is needed is action. In fact, revolution.

Mayor says 80% of city flooded
Katrina's death toll at 67; 1.3 million without power
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 Posted: 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Rescuers worked through the night to reach hundreds of people stranded after Hurricane Katrina ripped across the Gulf Coast killing dozens of people, destroying countless homes and leaving more than a million people without power in three states.
And authorities said they would not be able to reach some of the hardest-hit areas until first light on Tuesday.
The storm is blamed for at least 67 deaths and that toll is almost certain to rise. Mississippi officials said at least 54 people were killed there, including 30 who were killed in an apartment complex near the Biloxi beach. Alabama reported two deaths. The storm killed 11 people last week when it made its initial landfall in Florida.

While Louisiana officials have not yet confirmed any deaths there, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said there have been reports of bodies floating in the floodwaters.
"My heart is heavy tonight," Nagin said in the interview on CNN affiliate WWL-TV. "I don't have any good news to share."
Nagin said that about 80 percent of the city was flooded and that some areas were under 20 feet of water.
Water poured into the city from Lake Pontchartrain after a two-block-long breach opened in a section of a levee that protects the low-lying city.
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Rock Climber

The first and third pictures are of my Korean friend Pete. The top picture looks especially hectic. It's quite a long, near vertical drop to the forest canopy. Go Pete. Posted by Picasa

37/2 A New Face And Tears

I feel like I have a brand new computer, but I just have another hard disk installed, and am at the moment selecting only the eseential stuff to copy from what is now my slave drive. Really can't thank Brian enough for coming and opening up my computer last night, and toiling and tricking it into its current guise as Mr Zippy.

Despite feeling a lot of fatigue after running very hard last night, I had a restless sleep (maybe just 3-4 hours sleep). Today was the perfect candidate for a temper tantrum, and the kids were rowdy in almost all the classes. Just one of those days.
What I do if a kid just won't shutup or do anything, is I ask him if he wants a drink of water (or needs to use the restroom) and they almost always run out of the classroom, taking the noise factor with them. That's one way of regaining control of the less rowdy kids.

One little girl, Jenny, who I usually find utterly adorable, couldn't copy the sentence: I bought a book.
Number one she jumbled all the words on top of each other, so that she eventually produced:
She's 7 years old but seems to have very poor concentration skills. How hard is it to copy shapes and lines down that are right in front of you? Frustrating to watch.

But I was pretty relaxed today, and took most of the mayhem in my stride.
There was also a new face, a new teacher sitting in the staffroom today, that I thought was a 21 or 22 year old graduate. Partly because she is just very young looking and pretty, but also because she comes across very shy and sweet. 22? Minjung turns out to be a 30 year old who studied in Tasmania (Computer Programming) and now has 2 children. Minjung's replacing Alicia's husband who is now also has two children.

The kids said they saw Sharon crying today. When I asked her about it she said she was feeling sick.

When Alicia's husband introduced me to Minjung he said, "The school materials are good, but the school's structure isn't. But that's okay, Nick's a nice guy, so you can enjoy it here."
Sometimes a small comment like that can really brighten things up.

Caught the airport bus after work, filled with air stewardesses and long distance travellers. Drew money (had W100 000 more than I expected) and then went to Newcore to buy some healthy fruit and vegetables, and some salmon. They're selling brand new bikes, quite nice, for just W59 000.

Think I'm definitely going to have an early night tonight. I have to meet a contact for extra work tomorrow at 10am at a Starbucks near here. Want to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for that.

Piracy crackdown spurs shift in online file-sharing By Adam Pasick

Mon Aug 29,10:30 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Traffic in the popular file-sharing network BitTorrent has fallen in the wake of a crackdown on piracy, but file sharers have merely shifted to another network, eDonkey, new data released on Monday showed.

Popular movies like "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" have surfaced on BitTorrent before they even appeared in theatres.

A study by the Cambridge-based Internet analysis firm CacheLogic found that eDonkey is now roughly on par with BitTorrent in the United States, China, Japan and Britain.

It is the dominant peer-to-peer file-sharing network in South Korea, which has the world's highest percentage of high-speed Internet use, and also in Italy, Spain and Germany.

What's normal, what's healthy?

 Posted by PicasaThis book tells you. For example:

- every day we should eat whole grains (nuts), fruits, wholewheat bread
- 3 times a week we should consume fish, like salmon, not tuna which contains mercury and other toxins
- red wine is very healthy as an anti-oxidant
- the colon is the most closely related organ to our brains, in structure and composition, and is constantly releasing all sorts of chemicals into the body which effects our brains, mood, energy, and general ability to function, including the levels of antibodies
- fat attached to the colon is far more dangerous (and mobile) than any other fat in the body, say on the arms and legs
- on average, everyone, men and women, pass gas (fart, make a stink, poof etc) 14 times a day
- one should visit the toilet (for number two) once a day, once in two days is also acceptable
- drinking lots of water helps flush out the colon. It's a long convoluted pipe inside of you, and all that food you eat everyday goes through it all the time. Keep it clean. If it gets dirty, it gets like dirty skin. Pimply, and those pimples will become permanent and will give off permanent and painful toxins
- poops are ideally s-shaped, and should come out all at once, and be most. They shouldn't be hard and disconnected
- raisins and other food rich in magnesium (foods that look the way they look when they come out the ground) are good for colon maintenance, especially when combined with calcium
- cancers happen when cells are born deformed

3 things you can do to reduce the risk of cancer by 50%
folic acid - spinach, orange juice
vitamin d - sunshine, orange juice
take aspirin

also consume broccoli, tomatoes and tomato sauce

Is coffee good or bad for you?
Coffee is good for you. It has some side effects, but can reduce liver cancer

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What You Should Know If You're Intending To Get Married


(1) You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
-- Alan, age 10

(2) No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry.
God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.

-- Kristen, age 10


(1) Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER
by then.
-- Camille, age 10

(2) No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get
-- Freddie, age 6


(1) You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling
at the same kids.
-- Derrick, age 8


(1) Both don't want any more kids.
-- Lori, age 8


(1) Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to
know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
-- Lynnette, age 8 (isn't she a treasure)

(2) On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually
gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
-- Martin, age 10


(1) I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the
newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns.
-- Craig, age 9

(9) When they're rich.
-- Pam, age 7

(2) The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess
with that.
- - Curt, age 7

(3 ) The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should
marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do.
-- Howard, age 8


(1 ) It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need
someone to clean up after them.
-- Anita, age 9


(1 ) There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?
-- Kelvin, age 8

And the #1 Favorite is........


(1 ) Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a
-- Ricky, age 10

What I will do back in South Africa

We have a farm in Africa (sounds kind've poetic, doesn't it), with a lot of wild veld, and some lovely settings around the river that flows through it. It's a tranquil setting, a lovely place to hear the birds sing and the grass whisper.

I got an email from my father this morning, before his departure to Greece tomorrow.

He writes:
A lodge/conference/wedding facility at the farm should work...The process to get it going has started in earnest and you can get involved with that when you come back and maybe some property developement.

So that should be interesting, and an exciting and welcome departure from what I've been doing for the last couple of years ;-)

#1 Run

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I started this run at a comfortable pace with Corneli. She actually did her longest outdoor run ever, over an hour (and 2 laps) so well done.
After about 2 laps I did 10 pullups. I am definitely getting stronger, as I could barely manage 10 pullups when I weighed 75kg, almost 10kg lighter than I am now.
Felt a little uncomfortable on the run. Stiff, needed the loo for number two, and felt like a swallowed a bug.

Run: 1:36
Distance: 14km
Heart rate: 144 average (181 max - Phoof!)
KCal: 1531
Temperature average: 29C (but felt cool and wet)
Pullups: 10

On cue, as I started my last lap, a Korean guy came trotting past me. I had already picked up my pace, and now I picked it up even more.
I knew I wasn't going to outrun this guy, but I thought I'd try to keep him company for at least a kilometre. I made the big bridge my target.
I really didn't want him to feel threatened and run away from me, so just tucked in gently on his shoulder. I'm sure he could hear me breathing, so he probably knew I was just measuring myself against his pace, not taking him on. Unlike all the other guys I chased, he didn't change his pace much at all.

Once or twice it just felt too hard, and then I had to dig deep. About three hundred metres from the bridge I started to fade again, and he slowed up slightly, and made a friendly gesture and said something like, "English guy, go in front".
I chuckled and gave him a few claps of my hand, and then fell back a step.
I clung on like a limpet though, and then did a last surge to stay on his shoulder as we passed under the bridge. As we did I reached forward and tapped his shoulder, barely capable of spluttering the world "Jarasayeo": well done.

Then I eased down from an absolutely exploding heartbeat (181) and shuffled slowly home. Must run at least once more this week.

It's actually a good feeling running so hard. I really feel that I'm burning it when I do. I can't imagine you can stay too heavy when you're pushing yourself as hard as I was...obviously need to do it more.

I've abandoned the Day X (X) format as I've decided to take a much more simplistic approach to training, for now; my form is not good, so I'm not going to do Ulgin. I'll just concentrate on improving my run, and very gradually work on the fitness of the other two sports.

For the record, today was Day 28. No training over the weekend.

Why Kunstler, Simmons and Peak Oil Now Makes Sense


by Dimitri Podborits

Part One

I find myself in a very strange situation. Everywhere I look I see very smart people expressing confident opinions about some future developments of various large and small-scale financial and economic phenomena. One might assume that these opinions should somehow filter into various decision making processes for for various kinds of analytical, strategic and tactical thinking. Therefore, one might hope that the opinions expressed by the smartest people with the most confidence are the most informed, balanced and rational.

However, often I observe the opposite trend: the smarter the people are, the less they are interested in the world around them and the more confident their opinions become. Under these conditions, high IQ becomes almost a handicap. It is almost as if a storm would be forecast and a person would be warned to seek shelter, and his response would be – "Don't try to scare me – I am too smart to seek shelter. I am confident in my ability to always outsmart the storm".

You would think that his level of confidence would be correlated with the information the person has about the severity of the coming storm. But no, the person is not even interested in the storm. He cheerfully observes that he has little understanding of storms in general and has not even bothered to look into the information gathered by others about this particular approaching storm. He is not interested in these things. This, however, does not affect the confidence of his opinion or forecast which (the confidence) is based solely on understanding himself as a smart, high-IQ person. And this is something that is hard to argue with – yes, he is smart, "high IQ" is written all over his forehead. Nevertheless, you almost wish he wasn't, since high IQ makes him more vulnerable, not less, and his forecast more flawed.

One can speculate on the origins of this paradox. There is a well-researched phenomenon in evolutionary biology called Zahavi's handicap principle, which establishes that certain types of animal morphology and behavior evolve precisely because they reduce the animal's fitness and penalize its chance for survival. A peacock's tail is an obvious example. One can observe that a peacock's tail is almost "deliberately designed" to introduce a higher cost for survival for the host animal and therefore to communicate to others (including predators and potential mates) that the peacock-carrier of the larger tail is the animal with superior genes.

I propose that a very smart person deliberately ignoring reality and expressing extremely shallow opinions with extreme confidence based on no thinking at all behaves much like a peacock advertising to predators his costly tail. The message that he broadcasts is basically this: "Look at me -- I am so obviously smart that I can deliberately make extremely dumb statements with a very high degree of confidence; it takes a really high-IQ person to totally ignore reality and still be this confident in his forecast".

Under these circumstances, the worst possible thing someone on the receiving end of an "opinion" can do is to assume that smarter people express more informed, more based-on-reality, and more rational opinions. I cannot warn people strongly enough: beware of smart people expressing confident opinions or forecasts.

A case in point – a recent series of commentaries on the topic of "Peak Oil" by two eminent economists (and self-described "rogue" economists) who wrote an award-winning and best-selling book, Freakonomics. The book, which I greatly enjoyed (in the audio version) discusses various phenomena traditionally viewed outside the realm of economics from the classical economics standpoint. The book is well-written, insightful, makes a number of interesting observations and very quickly appeared on multiple bestseller lists.

I'd like to note, however, that the self-definition of the Freakonomics' authors as "rogue" economists is largely misleading. The success of the book is based on the application of the known patterns of human behavior -- the chief of which is the generalization that "people respond to incentives" -- to the analysis of human dynamics nontraditional to the economics at large, such as illicit drug dealing and abortion. Obviously, if one can talk about "the economics of Hollywood" and "the economics of healthcare", one can also talk about the economics of crack-cocaine, because in all cases it is ultimately the human behavior that underlines all of these dynamics. In this sense, the authors are not really "rogue" economists, as they do not undermine any of the reigning economic principles; they embrace them and apply them to the areas of human behavior unfamiliar to the economics as practices by the "economic establishment" (if there is such an institution).

The problem starts, however, when the "freakonomists" begin to obnoxiously profess that since some dynamics can be understood within the context of human behavioral patterns, then all dynamics can be understood with human behavioral patterns.

One such dynamic of supreme importance centers around the Peak Oil phenomena that has finally entered into the mainstream of public debate, as evidenced by the Peter Maass' article in New York Times magazine. Jim Kunstler criticized Maass' article last week for being wishy-washy about the issue of Peak Oil; to his criticism I would add that Maass in the article dedicated in part to the research by Matt Simmons noncritically repeats the official Saudi number for total recoverable Saudi oil reserves as 260 billion barrels (the claim never substantiated in public statements by field-by-field breakdown by Saudi Aramco or the Saudi government), while analyses abound by Simmons, Campbell, McKillop and other authoritative industry observers claiming that the official number has no basis in reality.

Nevertheless, I believe that the Maass' article is a valuable and welcome development since it increases, not decreases the overall public understanding of the Peak Oil phenomenon.

Freakonomists, however, confidently claim that the Peak Oil will be a non-event. In the leading commentary on the topic in the authors' blog, titled "Peak Oil: welcome to the new media's version of shark attacks," and then in the follow-up commentary, they ridicule the PO phenomena as a media-fabricated frenzy and portray the people analyzing this topic as a new incarnation of obscure alchemist tinkerers -- charmingly ridiculous in their doomed determination, but harmless.

On what basis? After all, the freakonomists cheerfully state that "I don't know much about world oil reserves. I'm not even necessarily arguing with their facts about how much the output from existing oil fields is going to decline, or that world demand for oil is increasing. But these changes in supply and demand are slow and gradual -- a few percent each year."

Well, this is how they describe their worldview:

"What most of these doomsday scenarios have gotten wrong is the fundamental idea of economics: people respond to incentives. If the price of a good goes up, people demand less of it, the companies that make it figure out how to make more of it, and everyone tries to figure out how to produce substitutes for it. Add to that the march of technological innovation (like the green revolution, birth control,
etc.). The end result: markets figure out how to deal with problems of
supply and demand.

Which is exactly the situation with oil right now. I don't know much about world oil reserves. I'm not even necessarily arguing with their facts about how much the output from existing oil fields is going to decline, or that world demand for oil is increasing. But these changes in supply and demand are slow and gradual -- a few percent each year.
Markets have a way with dealing with situations like this: prices rise a little bit. That is not a catastrophe, it is a message that some things that used to be worth doing at low oil prices are no longer worth doing. Some people will switch from SUVs to hybrids, for instance. Maybe we'll be willing to build some nuclear power plants,
or it will become worth it to put solar panels on more houses."

And finally, the last nail in the coffin of these pesky Peak Oil doomsayers:

"As [Maass] notes, high prices lead people to develop substitutes.
Which is exactly why we don't need to panic over peak oil in the first place."

The scariest thing for me here is not the flimsiness and the stupidity of the rebuttal, but the CONFIDENCE and the LACK OF INTEREST IN THE REALITIES OF THE WORLD that they are pronounced with. Even scarier,
however, is that these commentators are smart people with high IQ, regarded throughout the world as authorities in economics. When these two talk, many listen.

Of course people respond to incentives! Of course markets will attempt (as they have been attempting for a long time, without success) to find substitutes within the same basic economic structure.

However, is there a physical law stating that an adequate substitute, fitting into any existing infrastructure and cost structure, and satisfying the needs of any living arrangement, has to exist? I wish the freakonomists were there with me during my various travels -- from Mexico to Greece to Alaska -- where I saw communities of various scales abandoned and in ruins because the populace couldn't find at sufficient cost and quantities the resources they have come to depend upon, from water to arable soil to fish in the sea to mineable minerals. What if the vast literature dedicated to discussing the inadequacy of all currently known putative replacements for cheap oil has a point?

So, if we are not lucky enough to find a sufficient replacement for cheap oil, what will our response be? How will we, so to speak, respond to incentives?

Well, as Kunstler euphemistically puts it, "we will have to make other arrangements." This will basically mean that the society will change its very fabric and structure in response to the post-cheap oil circumstances.

The structure of the "new arrangements" arrangement may be, however, very unfamiliar from the point of view of "the world as we know it" -- a Maass' term that the freakonomists disagree with. I also think that a better term would be "the world as we practice it".

For example, one of the "responses to incentives" can be described as "making do with less", as in malnutrition or starvation.

Another response under the same circumstances can be described as "going to war".

Yet another response can be described as "mass migration away from the areas that have become uninhabitable, into the still habitable areas whose longtime residents would not be too happy to share their own resources with the newcomers".

And yet another response could be described as "reorganizing the economy around local food production".
Of course, there could be still other arrangements including elements of several or all of the previous four, plus some other yet unmentioned. However, they all would reflect "the new equilibrium" of the post-cheap oil world.

If someone can show me that a perfect market and even a lessaiz fair economy cannot respond to incentives along these lines, I would be very interested. I think that a big mistake that the freakonomists make even in their "pure economic," i.e. maximally abstract, nonspecific and detached-from-reality considerations when they dismiss any changes, is that they equate the notion of a market economy with the notion of a growing economy, and also with a consumer economy. These, however, are not the same things. A market economy, for example, can remain such even while becoming, under post-cheap oil circumstances, a contracting or imploding economy. How this scenario would correspond to the notion of the consumer economy I would leave as an exercise to the esteemed freakonomists.

Furthermore. I have carefully looked at the economic side of the argument and have not found any substantiation of the claim that "the changes in supply and demand would be slow and gradual – a few percent per year." I don't see how even against the backdrop of a perfect market economy, say, Ghawar's production cannot collapse fairly quickly due to geological maturity and overinjection of seawater, as Simmons suggests. I don't see how the same cannot happen with any other of the currently producing fields, or several fields at once at some point in the fairly near future. What cutting-edge economic thinking precludes, for example, the oil province of Saudi Arabia to start declining at the rate of, say, North Sea or Alaska's North Slope?

The authors claim:

"If oil prices rise, consumers of oil will be (a little) worse off.
But, we are talking about needing to cut demand by a few percent a
year. That doesn't mean putting windmills on cars, it means cutting
out a few low value trips. It doesn't mean abandoning North Dakota, it
means keeping the thermostat a degree or two cooler in the winter."

It appears to me that the authors somehow missed in their analysis that the decline of, say, 5% per year in consumption of fossil fuels (against the backdrop of, say, 1% of overall population growth due to demographic reasons and mass migration away from the areas hit the hardest) would translate into a roughly 50% of fossil fuel usage reduction after 10 years. That's the core of the PO argument with which the authors "are not necessarily arguing with" -- that past peak, the oil production will continue to fall, as it will take ever-increasing heroic expenses to keep it flat, and any successes in keeping it flat will be necessarily temporary.

So, in a dozen of years in this scenario -- probably still within the economic life time of a brand new Hummer H2, which has by then recently descended from a factory conveyer somewhere in the state of Michigan on the day the oil has peaked (that day will be known only post factum, of course), purchased through an employee incentives discount and financed on credit, the owner will have to cut a nonessential 50% of his overall driving, keep the thermostata mere 25 or 30 degrees lower and face doing more of the same in subsequent years, all without abandoning North Dakota, or making any other lifestyle changes.

One could comment that the "freakonomists" seem to have gone pretty far in life for people exhibiting the kind of thinking (as well as the level of confidence in their own thinking) that they demonstrate. This observation helps matters very little, though. It is not the shallowness of their analysis, total lack of interest to the underlying realities, and a 15 second attention span -- it is how widely and noncritically such views are accepted that I find most disturbing here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Valentin (looking boyish), Corneli (looking cute) and Jo...Dracula's latest bite victim? Those red eyes.... I was already snaking towards Ilsan,sleeping on the subway, when this picture was taken. Posted by Picasa

This photo was taken with Corneli's new Canon camera, bought on Saturday in Yongsan. 5 Megapixels. I need to upgrade my camera, which is 1.3 megapixels. Have my eye on a Canon Sd300 powershot. A bit expensive at W500 000, but obviously it's a good buy because it seems to be sold out everywhere. Even on some websites it's sold out. Posted by Picasa

All Black supporter? Posted by Picasa

Katrina may be 'our Asian tsunami'

Sunday, August 28, 2005; Posted: 10:46 p.m. EDT (02:46 GMT)
(CNN) -- Flooding expected from Hurricane Katrina could wreak catastrophe on New Orleans, overwhelming its water and sewage systems, damaging its structures and leaving survivors in a bowl of toxic soup, a top hurricane expert said Sunday.

Landfall is expected early Monday. (Latest report)

"We need to recognize we may be about to experience our equivalent of the Asian tsunami, in terms of the damage and the numbers of people that can be killed," said Ivor van Heerden, director of the Louisiana State University Public Health Research Center in Baton Rouge.

Some 25 feet of standing water is expected in many parts of the city -- almost twice the height of the average home -- and computer models suggest that more than 80 percent of buildings would be badly damaged or destroyed, he said. (Watch a report on the worst-case scenario)

Floodwaters from the east will carry toxic waste from the "Industrial Canal" area, nicknamed after the chemical plants there. From the west, floodwaters would flow through the Norco Destrehan Industrial Complex, which includes refineries and chemical plants, said van Heerden, who has studied computer models about the impact of a strong hurricane for four years.

"These chemical plants are going to start flying apart, just as the other buildings do," he predicted. "So, we have the potential for release of benzene, hydrochloric acid, chlorine and so on."

That could result in severe air and water pollution, he said.

In New Orleans, which lies below sea level, gas and diesel tanks are all located above ground for the same reason that bodies are buried above ground. In the event of a flood, "those tanks will start to float, shear their couplings, and we'll have the release of these rather volatile compounds," van Heerden added.

Because gasoline floats on water, "we could end up with some pretty severe and large -- area-wise -- fires."

"So, we're looking at a bowl full of highly contaminated water with contaminated air flowing around and, literally, very few places for anybody to go where they'll be safe."

He went further.

"So, imagine you're the poor person who decides not to evacuate: Your house will disintegrate around you. The best you'll be able to do is hang on to a light pole, and while you're hanging on, the fire ants from all the mounds -- of which there is two per yard on average -- will clamber up that same pole. And, eventually, the fire ants will win."

The levees intended to protect the city vary in height, from as low as 10 feet above sea level to about 14 feet, he said. They too are vulnerable, because they are made of earth, he said.
Disaster waiting to happen

Previous studies have suggested a catastrophic toll in lives and property if a major hurricane were to hit the New Orleans area, where about 1.3 million people live.

Walter Maestri, the emergency management chief in neighboring Jefferson Parish, said Hurricane Georges in 1998 could have killed as many as 44,000 people had it struck the city directly.

"The way it's described, we describe it here, is Lake Pontchartrain has now become Lake New Orleans," he told CNN in 2004.

Van Heerden said levees built to protect New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain could be buffeted by waves from the lake, which is about 23 miles by 35 miles in area.

"You're going to have enormous waves develop on that lake, especially with as much as 14 hours of hurricane-force winds." Those waves will erode the levees, raising the possibility of their collapse, he said.

"This is what we've been saying has been going to happen for years," he said. "Unfortunately, it's coming true."

Rick Luettich, a professor at the University of North Carolina's Institute of Marine Sciences, compared Katrina's expected impact on areas far up the Mississippi to "grabbing the end of the bed cover and giving it a hard snap."

That snap will push "probably in excess of 10 feet" of floodwater up the river, he predicted. "It will propagate up the river like a wave," past Baton Rouge, more than 70 miles away, he said.

For 15 years, Luettich has been developing a hydrodynamic circulation model -- called AdCirc -- that he said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has endorsed to help emergency managers predict storm damage.

Apologizing for the possibility that his comment could be interpreted as somewhat ghoulish, he said, "This is, in some ways, a little bit exciting for us, because it's a real opportunity to test this technology we've developed and see how well it works."  Posted by Picasa

37/1 Good Day

Am having a good and productive day despite the dire predictions for Louisiana. Not sure why President Bush is still on vacation. If anything, he should be ordering a massive airlift using military transports - apparently there are still 10 000 people still in the New Orleans area. Things can turn out really really badly there. Time will tell.

Going to run tonight. Did not train at all this weekend, but am fairly comfortable with that. Drank a little and watched the rugby and had quite a good time.

Also going to add a slave drive to my computer tonight, and format the other drive with Brian's help tonight.
Still hot here.

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Here's a prime example of why changing our climate matters:

Oil surges over $70 on Katrina

By Paul Marriott 43 minutes ago

SYDNEY (Reuters) - U.S. oil prices surged to a record above $70 a barrel on Monday as one of the country's biggest storms tore through the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, forcing oil producers and refiners to shut down operations.

U.S. crude oil futures soared nearly $5 a barrel in opening trade to touch a fresh peak of $70.80 a barrel, surpassing last week's $68 high to the highest price since the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) began trading contracts in 1983.

It later traded up $3.42 a barrel, 5.2 percent, at $69.55.

Oil product and natural gas prices also shot higher to records, with gasoline soaring 10 percent to $2.13 a gallon and heating oil rocketing past $2 a gallon for the first time. Natural gas prices were up 20 percent.

Prices leapt as Hurricane Katrina, the eleventh named storm of what is expected to be an unusually severe season, threatened to do lasting damage to the vital U.S. oil and refining region, further straining an industry that has struggled to keep up with two years of strongly rising oil demand. Posted by Picasa

New Orleans braces for monster hurricane

 Posted by Picasa
Sunday, August 28, 2005; Posted: 8:29 p.m. EDT (00:29 GMT)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- New Orleans braced for a catastrophic blow from Hurricane Katrina overnight, as forecasters predicted the Category 5 storm could drive a wall of water over the city's levees.

The huge storm, packing 160 mph winds, is expected to hit the northern Gulf Coast in the next 12 hours and make landfall as a Category 4 or 5 hurricane Monday morning.

The National Hurricane Center reports that conditions are already deteriorating along the central and northeastern coast.

A statement from the National Weather Service in Slidell, near New Orleans, Louisiana, warned that much of the affected area "will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer."

Low-rise, wood-frame buildings will be destroyed, and concrete apartment buildings "will sustain major damage," it said.

"High-rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously, a few to the point of total collapse," the warning read.

"All windows will blow out. Airborne debris will be widespread, and may include heavy items such as household appliances and even light vehicles."

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency Sunday and ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city.

Nagin exempted essential federal, state, and local personnel; emergency and utility workers; transit workers; media; hotel workers; and patrons from the evacuation order."We are facing a storm that most of us have feared," Nagin said. "I do not want to create panic, but I do want the citizens to understand that this is very serious and it's of the highest nature.

Hurricane KATRINA Public Advisory

 Posted by PicasaBULLETIN
7 PM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005





904 MB...26.69 INCHES.







Strike Probabilities

This display shows the probability, in percent, that the center of the tropical cyclone will pass within 75 statute miles of a location during the 72 hours beginning at the time indicated in the caption. The caption also provides the name of the tropical cyclone and the advisory number from which the probabilities were generated. Contour levels shown are 10%, 20%, 50% and 100%. Posted by Picasa

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