Sunday, June 29, 2008

Climate Confusion by Roy Spencer C2008

Very thought provoking book. Spencer does believe that global warming is happening. Has graphs that show same. He just doesn't believe that the small amount of CO2 increase is significant, compared to the enormously greater amount of water vapor (as strong a green house gas as CO2 and 100 times more plentiful) in the atmosphere. He also points out that atmospheric circulation carries heat from the surface to high altitudes where it radiates the heat into space. The magnitude of this heat transfer dwarfs the tiny amount of extra heat trapped by rising CO2 levels. He casts doubt on the reliability of computer models (very reasonable doubts that, after 40 years of computer work, I share). The effects of cloud cover are poorly understood, and the relationshp between a warmer earth, more water evaporation, forming more clouds is even less well understood. The model's handling of clouds, increasing humidity and numerous other factors is problematic.
Well worth reading.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Solar Energy put on hold due to "environmental concerns"

Alternate energy any one? US bureau of land management wants a two year study period to "study" the environmental impact upon the desert. Full story here. The US is getting so wrapped around the environmental axle that we cannot do anything. Can't drill for oil, can't expand refineries, can't do solar, can't do oil shale. Can't do nothing, 'cause everything has an environmental impact. Pretty soon we start to freeze to death in the dark.

Heavy Sour Crude oil, cheap and plentiful

All you have to do is refine it. According to Classical Values, the Indians are planning to do just that. The EPA has stalled a Cococo project to expand an Illinois refinery to handle 500,000 barrels a day of heavy sour Canadian crude. I blogged about that here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The law is what the people believe it is

The Supreme Court, by the narrowest of margins, showed some common sense in yesterday's ruling that US citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, just like the Second Amendment says they should. Most Americans believe, and always have believed in their right to have a firearm in a useful place, the cash drawer, the glove compartment, the bedside table. Just in case.
Americans are very law abiding. The laws of the United States are complied with because the people believe in the laws. They pay their taxes, register their cars, send their kids to school, and don't do crimes, because they believe it is the right thing to do, not because of law enforcement. This is a wonderful thing, something that many countries would love to have. It works only because the people believe in the laws they obey.
Widespread beliefs cannot be changed by a 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision. Had the Court ruled against the right to bear arms, it would simply make a large number of citizens into law breakers. Fortunately five justices were astute enough to realize this. You have to wonder about the intelligence of the other four justices, and wonder how in the name of all that's holy they ever got onto the Supreme Court.
Lesson for the day. Vote a straight republican ticket to put more intelligent justices on the Court.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I am NOT addicted to oil.

I just need enough furnace oil to keep the house up to 60 thru a New Hampshire winter. That was about 700 gallons last winter. And enough gasoline to get to the store and to church on Sunday. My six passenger Detroit sedan gets 27 mpg, and a 20 gallon tank lasts a couple of weeks. Figure 500 gallons a year. Between the furnace and the car, 1200 gallons or 22 barrels a year round numbers. Figure maybe 100 million households at the same rate of consumption and you get to about 6 million barrels per day of oil consumption. Actual US consumption is 3 times that, so something like 12 million barrels per day are going to industry. Airlines, trucks, trains, electric power generation, agriculture, chemical feedstocks, bunker oil for ships, asphalt for the roads, and who knows what else.
Industry can do some cut backs, but I need my modest 22 barrels a year and there is little I can do to cut it downany more. I'm insulated, I have good Andersen thermopane windows, fluorescent lights, a new furnace, and I keep the heat turned down. I don't drive much.
Every time you hear a democrat say the US is addicted to oil, you have just heard a good reason to vote republican.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

The Supreme Court issued a judgment on the Exxon Valdez case. For those of you born after the Exxon Valdez accident a quick refresher. A humongous oil tanker, owned by guess who, was skippered by a relapsed alcoholic, Joe Hazelwood. With a full load, the tanker pushed off at night, with the skipper sleeping it off in his cabin, and the third officer conning the ship out a narrow channel. He got confused in the dark and hit a rock, ripping a big leak in the hull. Most of the cargo leaked out and made one god awful mess. It killed the fish, fouled the beaches, killed the birds and did a lot of other damage. This happened 19 years ago.
This evening the Supreme Court issued a judgment on this case. In the 19 years of legal delay one fifth of the original plaintiffs have died of old age. You don't ever get justice from the US courts, you die of old age first. Lawyers got 19 years of employment.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Usenet killed by Time Warner

Shed a tear for Usenet. It is one of the oldest parts of the internet, as old as email. The world wide chat room. In the old days computer geeks swapped programming tips and software work arounds on Usenet. Communities of real experts formed groups to discuss every subject under the sun, technology, politics, history, literature, religion, cooking, carpentry, writing, and many more. In the 80's and 90's much good information and humor was available there on. Being an original part of the internet, created in a more reasonable age, Usenet had no security. Anyone could sign on and say what ever he liked. The spammers got their start on Usenet but a hard hitting combination of system administrators pretty much drove the spammers off. CancelMoose was a famous anti spammer capable of making any post disappear with a few keystrokes.
Then the trolls moved in. They posted provocative messages which were outrageously successful at lighting off flame wars. The signal to noise ratio dropped to the point that serious individuals got tired of sorting thru the flames looking for serious content.
Usenet was never pre installed on computers, the user had to be technically savvy enough to configure his web brower to receive Usenet messages. Between the difficulty of getting onto Usenet and the infestation of trolls the serious users disappeared. Yesterday the lid of the coffin slammed shut. TimeWarner stopped carrying Usenet. Rest in Peace.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama finds his Karl Rove

Low key, young looking David Plouffe has been Barack Obama’s campaign manager since the beginning of 2007. He refuses interviews and attempts to keep his name and his family’s names out of the press. Barack Obama has heaped praise upon him. Plouffe is credited with the strategy of contesting all the minor state caucuses, which gave him the slight, but unbeatable edge in delegate count that Hillary never overcame. The caucus states are decided by a very small number of active party members. It wasn’t too difficult to recruit enough new voters to swamp the caucuses with Obama supporters. In most cases Obama was able to win all or nearly all the delegates, unlike the hotly contested primary states where Democratic Party rules split the delegates between the two contenders.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Battleground States

I'm looking at a very interesting electoral map of the US. It shows the solid republican states, the solid democratic states and the tossup (battleground) states. The Republicans own a solid strip of middle west states, going from Texas up to North Dakota, plus the old confederacy. The Democrats can count on California, Illinois, New York, New England and Maryland. The electoral votes are evenly split, 150 democrat, 153 GOP, 235 swing votes.
Should be a hotly contested election. New Hampshire, unlike the rest of New England, is a battleground state.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson vs Ed Markey on ABC

George Stephanopolis had republican Hutchinson debating democrat Markey on his Sunday morning pundit show. The guy doing the labels managed to promote Markey to senator (he is truly just a US rep from Massachusetts). Hutchinson came out for doing something real about the fuel price spike, namely drilling for oil and building more nuclear power plants. Markey tried to explain the great fuel price spike was Bush's fault. Didn't bother to explain just what Bush had done to cause the great price spike, but he was very positive that it was all Bush's fault. Then Markey went on to explain the need for government subsidies for "alternate" energy. According to Markey nothing gets down unless subsidized by the taxpayers. Like ethanol, which gets subsidies, tariff protection, and a federal law requiring addition of 10% ethanol to all motor gasoline. The corn farmers love it. Price of corn passed $7 a bushel the other day. It was $3.50 two years ago.
America has been the land of problem fixing since George Washington's day. Got a problem, we will invent a solution. Are we short of fuel? Fine, lets produce more. And lets work on fuel, the kind you can put in your furnace or your car. "Alternate" energy doesn't work in either place. The republicans have it right, more fuel production is the answer to the great fuel price spike.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tanker Tangle

Boo Boo. Major Boo Boo. The General Accountability Office, GAO, just declared the USAF jet tanker competition was unfair, and ought to be redone. That's gonna set the program back another year, and soak up more millions of dollars redoing all the paperwork. Plus generate more hard feelings no matter whether Airbus or Boeing gets the contract in the end. No wonder SecDef Gates fired the Air Force civilian head and chief of staff last month. This is a disgrace to the Air Force. Once upon a time I was an Air Force officer. I used to look back with some pride on my service. That's harder to do now.
The tanker selection is not rocket science. It's just buying off-the-shelf jet transport planes, and replacing the seats with fuel tanks. Deciding between Airbus and Boeing is something the commercial airlines have figured out how to do. If Delta and Southwest can pick between them why can't USAF? Why cannot USAF have some Air Force Manual on airplane buying, and comply with it?
Were the Air Force officers on the selection board so unprofessional as to take out personal grudges on the bidders? And the senior Air Force leadership let them do it? Reading between the lines in Aviation Week one gets the impression that Boeing had pissed off a number of Air Force people.
Why did the Air Force ask Boeing to bid a small aircraft and Airbus to bid a big one? And then cite the advantages of large size after selecting Airbus? There are obvious advantages to big planes and to small planes, and after operating jet tankers for half a century, the Air Force ought to be able to decide which size tanker best suits their needs. The request for proposal should have specified the aircraft size.
In fact, Airbus and Boeing jet transports are so similar that passengers are hard pressed to tell which one they are flying in. The only real selection issue is price. The hungriest company will offer the best price. The competing price quotes did not appear in Aviation Week, let alone the clueless MSM. Did the Air Force keep the price secret? Does the Air Force even care what the price is?
The Air Force officers responsible for this bungle should be disciplined, and they oughta outsource the next selection to the commercial airlines.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How much oil is offshore?

Today McCain and President Bush came out in favor of exploring for oil off the US coasts. They cited oil reserves of 10 billion barrels and up. Bringing that amount of oil onto the market would make a serious reduction in the price of gasoline.
Barack Obama opposes off shore drilling. He doesn't think there is enough oil out there to make a difference.
Barack Obama is a nice guy and all, but he isn't the right guy to ask about the size of oilfields. I want to hear what ExxonMobil, Atlantic Richfield, Gulf, BP, Chevron and the rest of them think. If the majors want to spend the humungous sums of money needed to bring in an offshore field, that means they think there is oil in it. If the majors want to drill it, they think there is oil down there. When big oil, who has been risking money on drilling for 100 years now, wants to bet on a gusher, I'll put my money down alongside of theirs. Barack Obama is just a politician, and he doesn't know oil like the real oil guys do.
I can't put alternate energy into my car or my furnace. I need the real thing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bye Bye Hummer

Nightly business report is doing interviews with Hummer dealers. Seems that sales are indeed off, even the dealers are admitting it. One dealer was explaining that the Hummer gas milage was really better than people think, as good a 12-14 mpg, on regular gas. Hell, my '99 Cadillac DeVille gets twice that and runs knock free on regular. Hummer is the vehicle that makes Caddy look economical? That's gonna sell Hummers?

Cluelessness on the News Hour

Last night Ray Suarez was chatting breezily with a youngish Wall St broker type. They traded market jargon back and forth and sounded very hep. Then the broker guy said something like "Of course the market for mortgage backed securities froze up last fall and still hasn't unfrozen" Wow. Understatement of the year. A better description of the situation is that investors wised up last fall and won't touch mortgage backed securities with a ten foot pole. And there is no reason to believe investors will ever buy them again.
Buried in the fine print of mortgaged backed securities is language that means "If the mortgages "backing" this security default it will cost you, the security owner. The security will loose value and/or reduce dividend payments. And by the way, said mortgages are all sub prime. "
Now that investors understand the fine print (burned investor hand teaches best) they have resolved never to get mixed up in them again.
I expect Hell to freeze over before that market "unfreezes".
Ray Suarez never called him on it. Was Ray merely being polite (he is a nice guy) or was he clueless too?

Monday, June 16, 2008

So how do they know the tomatoes are contaminated?

It's tough trying to make a living growing tomatoes. FDA is blaming the salmonella outbreak on tomatoes, from somewhere. Sales have dropped to zip. Fresh ripe tomatoes are piling up unsold, un eaten and going bad. Growers are losing money thru no fault of their own. How do they know the salmonella came from a tomato? Were they able to culture salmonella from an uneaten tomato? If so, could they read the packer's name and lot number off the cardboard carton?
Or, did they merely ask the victims to list everything they ate, and discover that all ( or a lot) of the victims listed tomatoes? Since tomato is about the most popular veggie in America you'd expect nearly everyone to list them. Guilt by association.
FDA isn't talking. Wonder what they are really doing

Sunday, June 15, 2008

There aughta be a law, Pt 2

Against TV broadcasters putting a station logo over the program material. Bad enough to endure the modern 10 minute commercial break. But to mess up a movie with a station logo is plain offensive. Even worse are those animated coming attraction thingies that pop up to ruin the movie for you.

There Oughta be a Law Pt 1.

Against those telemarketers who ring your phone but when you pick it up, you just get dead air. When they ring my phone, causing me to drop what I am doing to answer, they should at least have the courtesy to speak with me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

NH congressman Paul Hodes Solves the gasoline price crisis

Mr. Hodes shared his wisdom with us taxpayers in a handsome 4 color printed brochure mailed to voters. “This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense” was printed right on the front. Mr. Hodes has a four part plan to bring back the good old days of lower gas prices.

Part 1. Stop filling the strategic petroleum reserve. Big one here. 70,000 barrels per day were going into the reserve. US consumption is 20 million barrels a day. Stopping filling reduces US demand by 0.35%. Does anyone think this is enough to make any kind of difference?

Part 2. Sue OPEC. The long arm of US law will reach across the world and hail Dubai, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, the Iranians, and others in to US district court. Rather than being held in contempt of court, these easily cowed Arab countries will immediately cut prices and pump more oil. Last time I looked, foreign governments were not subject to US law. Sounds like more welfare for lawyers. Surely no one believes we can increase supplies by suing the suppliers.

Part 3. Alternate Energy. Repeal some tax breaks enjoyed by the oil companies and put the extra tax money into “alternate energy”. Ethanol anyone? At least I can run my car on ethanol. Wind and solar? Can’t put them in my gas tank, or my oil tank. Add a “biomass” tax credit. Wow, I get a tax credit for the cord of split birch I bought this spring?

Mr. Hodes doesn’t speak to the PSNH wood fired electric plant for Grafton country recently shot down in Concord, or the endless red tape holding back nuclear power.

Part 4. Offer special low rate loans for construction of energy efficient buildings. Right on. With mortgage money tight as it is, every new building will be certified “energy efficient” if it cuts a quarter point off the mortgage rate. This will become simply cheap mortgage money, a desirable thing, but hardly a thing to reduce gasoline prices.

Part 5. Tax credits for carpooling. “Oh yes your honor, I carpooled every day, and that is why I took a tax credit of $5700 last year, $20 a day for the 270 working days”. Right now, everyone who can put a carpool together is carpooling. Find two or three guys working at the same company and living sorta close together and they will carpool. No tax credits required.

Mr. Hodes doesn’t speak of the need to increase domestic oil production, build more refineries, exploit US reserves of oil shale, refine common cheap heavy sour crude oil into heating oil and gasoline, support research into nuclear fusion, and end the ridiculous system of boutique gasoline requirements.

If Mr. Hodes would talk about actually doing real things to relieve the fuel shortage he could send out as many self promoting brochures at taxpayer expense as he pleased. As it is, he comes out four square for doing nothing, at taxpayere expense.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Congress men are terrible speakers

Watched the House "debate" on the Amtrak bill this morning. Rep after Rep would take his allotted time to praise his committee, his constituents, damn the price of gasoline, and recommend a vote for the Amtrak bill. None of them spoke about the bill itself. Issues such as levels of service, speed, adding new routes, improving existing routes, buying new rolling stock, electrifying more track, scheduling more or fewer trains, raising pay and benefits for Amtrak workers, dead silence. In short, the C-Span televised floor debate didn't enlighten this taxpayer one iota. A voice over commentator mentioned some dispute between the White House and Congress and a veto threat, but none of the floor speakers gave a hint of this, or emphasised some good feature of the bill that might qualify a veto over ride.
In short, our Reps are using their floor time to promote themselves and their party. They don't attempt to persuade voters or the other party of the merits of the bills before them.

Republican energy plan will yield $2.06 gasoline

PowerLine has a comparison of Republican vs Democratic energy plans.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Water Vapor a Greenhouse Gas. Global Warming Part 3

At this time we all have heard of the evils of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. According to many sources, the CO2 blocks infrared radiation from leaving the earth for outer space, making the earth warm up.
Atmosphere levels of CO2 are around 300 parts per million. Less publicity is given to the 22000 parts per million of water vapor in the atmosphere. Water vapor is also a green house gas, as strong an infrared absorber as CO2. And there is better than 70 times as much water vapor in the air as there is CO2.
With 70% of the earth's surface covered by water, we are going to have a lot of water vapor in the air. Dry air will absorb as much water vapor as it likes, as it blows across the oceans. With the concentration of water vapor 70 times or more that of CO2, why do we worry about CO2? Even if man made CO2 was reduced to zero, the water vapor is still there, trapping heat, and warming the world.
Of the 300 PPM of CO2, much of it comes from natural causes like volcanoes and cannot be abated, no matter how drastic the restrictions on fuel burning become. A reduction of 100 PPM of CO2 (from 300 to 200 PPM) is the optimistic best that can be expected. It won't do anything for water vapor. So, today we have 22300 PPM of CO2 and water vapor. After drastic reductions in fuel use we get down to 22200 PPM. Is that going to save the world?
Few global warming enthusiasts talk much about water vapor.

Conoco Refinery Expansion is set back

The EPA appeals board in Washington DC revoked air permits granted by the Illinois EPA. Conoco wanted to enlarge their Roxana Illinois refinery to handle 500,000 barrels a day of heavy Canadian crude. Half a million barrels a day is 2.5% of national consumption. A 2.5% increase in supply is significant and might well reduce the price of gasoline and home heating oil. The state EPA approved the project. The refinery expansion was going to spend $4 billion dollars for construction in the state of Illinois.
However environmental "groups" (American Bottom Conservancy, National Resource Defense Council) went to the EPA appeals board in DC to stop the project. The inside the Beltway EPA bureaucrats are a softer touch than the regional people out in the mid west. The beltway folk put project on hold pending more EPA paperwork.
Our tax dollars at work, defending the price of fuel.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Driving the golden spike, er golden rail joiner.

The main line of the Franconia branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad (HO gauge) is finished today. A car coasts clean around the train room, no bumps, jumps, lurches or derailments, even when hand pushed at a scale 200 miles per hour. Gotta do some wiring before I can run locomotives under power. One thing at a time.
Lessons learned. After cutting the flex track to size with rail nippers, clean up the rail ends with a flat single cut file. File the end square, and then file a slight bevel on the tops, bottoms, and sides of the rail. This gives a smooth-to-the-touch rail joint, rather than leaving a burr that might help a wheel flange climb over the rail head. Use fresh new rail joiners. Lay a 4 foot straight edge along the straight tracks to make sure they stay straight and kink free before nailing the track down.
PL300 foam board adhesive has the pleasant property of coming off with just a sharp putty knife pushed under the roadbed. Comes clean from the foam without destroying it. How do I know this? Just one or two places I had to move the roadbed over a bit to make things fit better.
Nailing down the flex track to wood roadbed also lets me relocate track to eliminate kinks and other bad spots. Just pull out the track nails with long nose pliers and move the track. Easier to correct problems than had I glued the track down.
The wire guides (1/2 inch holes and dadoes in the under neath of the table work) are already doing good. I started the Cab A bus (#14 solid copper house wire) in the wire guides and lo and behold, it stays in place, runs straight, and it will be obvious just what wire it is even after the usual under layout rats nest of wire gets started.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Global Warming Part 2. What's wrong with more summer?

Coming out of a harsher than average New Hampshire winter, I see little wrong with shorter winter and earlier summer. We had a three inch snowstorm on the last day of April, and had to wait until today for the first truly warm day of the year. A couple of degrees of global warming would only drive the last snow back into March and move the onset of warm weather back into mid May. That ain't a catastrophe. We get a longer growing season, we still have winter skiing.
What's so bad about that?
Historical records show the Medieval Warm Period as a climatic optimum for Europe. Good harvests, good population growth, a good time. The Little Ice Age that set in for the 15th century was a disaster. With help from the Black Death, it cut the population of Europe in half.
If the Arctic ice went out it would improve the climate in all the Arctic lands, changing them from frozen wastelands into habitable farmlands. Since ice floats mostly underwater, like 90 % of an iceberg is submerged, melting the arctic ocean ice won't do much to raise sea level.
To get real sea level rises we have to melt the Antarctic ice cap. Greenland is only 15% the size of Antarctica and much of the Greenland ice cap is already below sea level. For a back of the envelope calculation we can ignore Greenland, it's Antarctica that counts. A crude calculation based on the relative area of the world oceans and the Antarctic is scary, melting the Antarctic ice cap might raise world sea level by 200 feet. Antarctica on the other hand is on land, so the ocean currents cannot melt it the way they can the Arctic. Antarctica is really, really cold. The average temperature is -30 C. The Antarctic ice cap won't melt until global temperatures climb 30 degrees C (54 degrees F). The most extreme global warming predictions are calling for temperature rises in the single digits, that isn't enough to melt out the South Pole. Without melting Antarctica, sea level rises will be in the one or two foot range at worst.
Around here we get a nine foot tide. Seawalls, locks, beaches, beach front property is already coping with an ocean that goes up and down 9 feet. An extra foot or so at high tide isn't going to flood downtown Boston.
So, far as I can see, a few degrees of global warming will give us a nicer planet to live on.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Global Warming, Part 1

The media, the greens, the Democrats, the presidential candidates, and everyone else is taking it seriously. The Senate is debating a "close down every smokestack" bill right now.
There are a number of questions voters ought to ask them selves. For instance, is the world really warming up?
To answer this question, you want to look at real measurable data, like historical temperature records or ice cores. Computer models don't mean much. All the computers do is solve mathematical equations and the answers are no better than the equations and data fed into them. The computer adds nothing to the process, scientists could solve the equations by hand with a slide rule. Using a computer makes the results seem more true, but with or without computer all we have is a theory. Science demands that theories be backed up with real observations or experiments. Theory unsupported by observations is mere speculation. It might be true, it might not be true, but until supported by real data, it's just a theory.
The most obvious data is records of temperature, made with thermometers, going back as far as the records go. That's less than three hundred years. Fahrenheit didn't invent his thermometer until 1724. A Scientific American article some years ago dug up every temperature reading in existence and tried to find a warming trend in that mountain of data. The article proceeded to explain the corrections they had to apply to the data. For instance, as vast cities grew up around historical weather stations, the temperature readings will rise, because cities covered with black asphalt roads, black asphalt roofs, lacking green trees, are significantly hotter than the surrounding country side. In sailing ship days, sea temperature was measured by heaving a canvas bucket overside, hauling the bucket of seawater up on deck, and dropping a thermometer into it. Steamers take in seawater to cool the engines, and the thermometer is permanently mounted in the cold water intake. The canvas bucket sitting on deck would warm up slightly before the thermometer reading could be taken. The sailing ship temperature readings were corrected downward a fraction of a degree to compensate. After much more correcting and data crunching the article concluded that yes, the earth had warmed up slightly. The amount of warming was smaller than the various corrections applied to the raw data.
Translation. The amount of global warming over the past three hundred years is too small to reliably observe with a thermometer.
Going back further, we have historical records of things like the start of the grape harvest, extent of Alpine glaciers, date of freezing of seaports, first day of spring planting, first snow of winter, and so on. Looking at this historical data suggests the existence of a medieval warm period centered in the 11th and 12th centuries and a little ice age from mid 15th century until the late 18th century. The medieval warm period coincides with the high middle ages, harvests were good, life was pleasant. In the depths of the little ice age it was so cold that the River Thames froze hard enough to conduct ice fairs and markets on the river ice. That doesn't happen today. The Viking colonies in Greenland failed at the onset of the little ice age.
Translation: Historical data suggests that the world has been both warmer and cooler than today, within historical times. The little ice age only ended two hundred years ago, so some warming is expected as we come out of it.
Then we have longer term evidence from ice cores. Quite a few have been taken and analyzed. The results are equivocal, some experts see global warming in the ice cores, others don't. Not being an experienced reader of ice cores myself, all I can go on is what the experts say, and right now the experts are arguing with each other.
Finally I have seen some very dramatic satellite photos of polar ice caps. One pair of photos shows a dramatic shrinkage of the Arctic ice cap over the last dozen years. I'd like to see a few more photos just to make sure we aren't seeing summer vs winter or just a short warm spell, but the two selected photos are impressive.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Whither Hillary?

This email came in this morning:

Dear David,

Over the course of this campaign, I have seen the promise of America in your courage and character, your energy and ingenuity, and your compassion and faith.

Your spirit has inspired me every day in this race. While I traveled this country talking about how I wanted to help you -- time and again, you reached out to help me. To grab my hand or grip my arm, to look me in my eyes and tell me, don’t quit, keep fighting, stay in this race for us. There were days when I had strength enough for the both of us -- and on the days I didn't, I leaned on you.

This has always been your campaign, and tonight, there's no one I want to hear from more than you. I hope you're as proud as I am of what we've done and that you'll take a moment to share your thoughts with me now at my website.

I want to congratulate Senator Obama and his supporters on the extraordinary race that they have run. Senator Obama has inspired so many Americans to care about politics and empowered so many more to get involved, and our party and our democracy are stronger and more vibrant as a result.

Whatever path I travel next, I promise I will keep faith with you and everyone I have met across this good and great country. There is no possible way to thank you enough for everything you have done throughout this primary season, and you will always be in my heart.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

It isn't quite a concession speech, but it is close to one.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Heavy Sour is cheaper than Light Sweet

The outrageous crude oil prices quoted on the TV news are not the whole story. The TV price is the price for the best grades of crude oil, thin (light) and low sulphur (sweet). The lower grade thick and sticky (heavy) and high sulphur (sour) sells for a third less than the premium grade. Heavy and sour crude can be refined to gasoline and diesel, but only state of the art modern refineries can do it. Plenty of older off shore refineries cannot handle heavy sour crude at all. Difficult as heavy sour crude is to refine, it's still enormously easier than refining oil shale or tar sands. Or making liquid fuels from coal.
If we had two or three more big refineries turning cheap plentiful low grade crude into gasoline and heating oil it would actually bring the outrageous prices down.
The US hasn't built a new refinery in decades 'cause of the NIMBY problem. NIMBY's buy gasoline and heating oil just like ordinary people. They just want the refinery located in some one else's back yard. Public spirited they are. Needless to say, the US no longer has enough refinery capacity to make all the gasoline and heating oil we need and is relying on off shore refineries to make up the short fall.
The US ought to build enough domestic refineries to satisfy domestic needs, and even do some export business. While we are at it, make the new refineries capable of handling the lowest grade crude on the planet. Refinery construction money spent in the US does more for the US economy than the same money spent in Aruba.
The Supreme Court recently ruled taking property by eminent domain for mere economic development purposes IS constitutional (the Kelo decision) . Take advantage of that. Pass a law declaring refineries to be a national security matter, and grant a major oil company eminent domain powers to take land for a new refinery. Declare that the small amount of land needed for a few refineries won't endanger any species. Stop the talking and the hand wringing and get on with it. Refineries take years to build, we need to start now.
Or do you like the idea of $5 a gallon?

Just call it cap and tax

Richard Samualson at Real Clear Politics says it better than I could.

Pre exiting conditions? Hi risk pool for you.

Once you get sick, the health insurers want to dump you. Insurers make money by depositing premiums paid by well people (or well people's employers). They loose money paying doctor and hospital bills. Dropping sick people, or refusing to insure sick people, does good things for insurance company profits.
More fair would be a law requiring insurance companies to sell their policies to all comers at the same price. The sick people are not responsible for their illness, they are unlucky. They encountered a virus, a microbe, a bullet, or some dangerous machinery. Or they inherited a genetic weakness, also a matter of luck. We, as a society, ought to give the unlucky sick people the same shot at health care as the lucky, and well, majority. Insurance is supposed to share the risk, the majority who do not have losses pay for the minority who do.
The insurance companies will oppose this law. Harry and Louse will make a TV come back. Insurers are cherry picking, offering low rates to low risk people to build market share, charging high rates, or refusing to insure, high risk people to keep the low rates low. Most health insurance is company paid insurance, which means the insured is well enough to hold a job, and hence is low risk.
The law ought to require insurers to sell policies to the public at the same price they sell them to big corporations. Employees get a better health deal than the self employed, the small business owners, the professionals, the contractors and consultants. The corporation gets a better price on the insurance, and pays for it with pretax dollars. It's free to the employee. The self employed have to pay more, get no tax break, and pay for it out of pocket.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Obame vs McCain, Style versus Substance

Watched Obama and McCain on Fox News this morning. McCain is advocating real policies, like cutting off gasoline imports to Iran. Obama is denouncing McCain as "the Bush third term". McCain is telling us what he would do if elected. What is Obama telling us, other than he doesn't like President Bush?

Basement train layout. First track down

Milestone reached in layout construction, I put down the first lengths of flex track last night. All the benchwork for the round-the-walls layout is up. Made the shelf brackets, the plywood tables, found the studs, sank the drywall screws thru the brackets into studs. Shelves made up from 1/2" plywood and 1*4 lumber, glued, sanded, painted to match the room. A layer of 2 inch blue foam cut to fit the shelves, beveled, and stuck down with latex caulk. Came out level, all way round the room, and doesn't sag anywhere. Awesome.
I wanted roadbed that would take track nails, and that means wood. Plywood is too hard, the glue layers will bend the track nails. Cork is too soft, the track nails pull out.
To get 1/4" wood for the roadbed, the newly acquired Craigslist bandsaw was able to resaw ordinary 3/4 inch pine into 1/4 inch slabs. Used a sharp blade, widest the machine will accept (1/2" for my saw). Made a fence from 3/4" plywood and c-clamped it to the bandsaw table. Feed slowly. A new blade will cut straight without drift. Straight and standard curves are simple to cut. For the fancier trackwork, easements on curves, turnouts and such, lay out the track full scale on poster board. Then cut the track shape out with sissors and use as a template.
Once cut, bevel the edges with a router, mounted in a table. Made my router table up from scrap plywood and except for amplifying the scream of the router, works well. Stick the newly made roadbed down with PL300 Foamboard adhesive. $2.99 a tube at the hardware store, and it says "Foamboard compatible" right on the tube. You get 10-15 minutes of working time, and then it needs over night to harden. Weighted the roadbed down with the usual assortment of heavy objects from the shop Paint cans, tool boxes, vise, etc.
Once dry, a sharp plane will level the joints between the pieces of road bed. I decided against using the belt sander 'cause it cuts awful fast, and throws sawdust everywhere.
Started laying track at the turnouts. Used 1/2" twist drill to bore a hole for the under table switch machine (Tortoise) operating rod. The twist drill makes a clean hole thru the pine road bed, the foam subroadbed and the plywood foam backing. I don't recommend a spade bit for this trick. Since the turnouts need to be accurately centered over the operating rod hole, nail them down first and cut the rest of the track to fit. Pine roadbed loves track nails, I can push them in with long nose pliers and they stay down.
At this rate, I might be able to run a train in a week or so.