Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oil hits USD$140 a barrel. Time we got serious about alternative fuel.

As I write this. Oil is USD$140 a barrel (Tapis USD$147, Brent USD$143, West Texas Intermediate - WTI USD$140. Tapis/Malaysian crude being the determinant in our part of the world).

I write this from an Aussies perspective, but the same base prices and issues exist throughout the world, so it should cover most people and their energy needs.

First, what influences petrol (gasoline) prices. In Australia, the ACCC put out this pamphlet. It's not just crude oil prices that determine our price-at-the-pump (government taxes, and refiner/wholesaler costs are major contributors to cost), but the price we pay for crude oil is the foundation of the price structure. This piece from the AIP gives more background.

I used to hear that this and that alternative to crude oil became commercially viable at 'x' dollars a barrel, and we have long since passed the dollar value quoted where that would become the case. So where is the rush to implement the use of these alternatives (heavy crude, oil sands, shale oil, oil-from-coal, biofuels, biodiesel, oilgae, etc)?

More to come on this. 'Biofuels' can have a negative impact on food production, if plants are used for fuel rather than feed, but there are many exciting possibilities for new sources of fuels, and we need to start exploiting those possibilities real soon.
The middle east is a politically unstable region, often unfriendly to the west, so alternative fuels that free the west from any dependence on middle eastern oil has to be strategically attractive proposition, not to mention economically so.

(A barrel of oil is 42 US gallons, 35 imperial gallons or 159 liters).

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Fat Jet

Again, Thanks to Alex for some great photography.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Music from 'PaintYour Wagon'

One of the last, and in my view, best, of the old style movie musicals was 'Paint Your Wagon'.

Known in part for Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood doing some rare singing appearances.

Went looking for 'They call the wind Mariah'. Wasn't there, but found something very similar here. And here is Lee doing 'Wandering Star' (long version). Old time Gold.

(And on Clint, my favourite, though less known movie of his is 'Heartbreak Ridge')

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It's sometimes said that service life, particularly active service can be 'long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of terror' (or intense activity). Servicemen always seem to find a way to fill in the boring times, often quite creatively.

Uckers is a game similar to Ludo, apparently based on the old Indian game of parchesi.
The intranet that my work plugs into was scene for an exchange on 'Uckers' recently.

Uckers is a game I've never played. P3s were usually busy (as are airlift squadrons). Fighter and bomber squadrons can be a different matter. But that is not where the game originated. It came to the RAAF via the RAN, and they inherited it from the Royal Navy (UK), where it has been played for a hundred years or more.

[Uckers board image is from and is used pursuant to section 40 of the Copyright Act 1968].


Sunday, June 15, 2008

A diffent take on environmentalism and GW.

Have a look at George Carlin's skit on 'Saving the Planet'.

[Thanks to 'pumuckl'].

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A face only a mother could.....

A face only a mother could love? Nah - but beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.
And a night shot of an F-111.

Again, thanks to Alex.

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Power, Politics, and 'the little guy(s)'

3 things of note in the world of power and politics which serve to illustrate the relationship between power, politics, and the lowly punter, the 'ordinary citizen.
First we have Ireland and Zimbabwe, and then a local example (ie NSW state politics, and an extension into federal (Australian) politics.

The first involves the electorate in Ireland. Seems the public voted 'NO' in a referendum on ratifying the Lisbon treaty for the EU. Some in the EU (and Ireland) want to have the referendum repeated (and it seems, would like to do so until they get the answer they want). This has renewed calls for a vote in Britain on the treaty, but the UK government is resisting that call (possibly because they would not get the result they want?).
There are 2 issues there, one the merits of the EU treaty, the other the issue of democratic choice 'by the people'.

The second example is that economic basket case of a failed state - Zimbabwe.
There was a recent election there for the presidency - widely viewed as rigged. Now there is a run-off election scheduled. which few observers expect to be fair.
Makes you wonder how such a regime can claim legitimacy. Also makes you wonder why the rest of the world lets it happen. (And there are other examples for that - Burma and Nth Korea for example).

The third example we have an Australian couple, husband/wife, the husband being a NSW minister (for education), and the wife being a federal MP. Seems they had 'some words' with the staff of an establishment. Whatever happened, it has become a case of 'the little guys' vs the powerful and well connected. But the little guys aren't backing down. More.

Each example illustrates why 'the little guys' collectively, need to have the means, the institutions (and faith in those institutions) to curb arbitrary and capricious exercise of power.
This is why I believe in the tools of direct democracy - Initiative, Referendum, and Recall.
And in the case of places like Zimbabwe, have not the people there suffered past the point where more direct action on their part against an illegitimate regime is their moral right?

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Free Speech - What's it all about?

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it".
Attributed (arguably) to François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire).

I'm a fan of free speech. I don't see how you can have freedom, or say you are free, without freedom of expression in it's various forms.

In Canada at the moment, that freedom is being tested, and the outcome of that test is important for Canada, the Commonwealth countries, and western liberal democratic values in general.

What happened? Well, Mark Steyn wrote a book, and an article a Canadian Newsmagazine published, and some people took exception to it.

From the Wikipedia entry on Steyn;
"...In 2007, a complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission"The Future Belongs to Islam", [34] written by Mark Steyn, published in Maclean's magazine. The complainants alleged that the article and Maclean’s refusal to provide space for a rebuttal violated their human rights. Further complaints were filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The Ontario Human Rights Commission refused in April 2008 to proceed, saying it lacked jurisdiction to deal with magazine content. However, the Commission stated that it, “strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims . . .. . . . Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism.” [35] Critics of the Commission claimed that Maclean's and Steyn had been found guilty without a hearing. John Martin of The Province wrote, "There was no hearing, no evidence presented and no opportunity to offer a defence -- just a pronouncement of wrongdoing."
Now, in these PC times, there will be many who condemn that article, and the writer, without even reading it. Perhaps without even knowing it's general thrust. For them, it will be enough that those who share their politics and ideology have condemned it.

I believe robust debate on contentious topics is absolutely necessary in a free society. That is how problems are identified, and the fix to those problems found. More to the point, the body politic has ownership of the process of identifying, discussing, and fixing problems. Not only is a mistake in resolution then less likely to happen, but if it is a mistake, it's a collective one, rather than an individual one that many pay for.
Put another way, if you don't talk about a serious issue now (no matter how rigorous the debate) you may end up fighting about it later (and by that I mean fighting and dying about it later).

So, think about your views on Freedom of Speech. Read the article. Form an opinion for yourself as to if it's 'hateful' then follow the trial, and the discourse on this issue and test.

Collect the information available, inform yourself, decide for yourself.
There are those who would deny you the basic information to be able to make up your own mind. They would be quite happy, however, to rid you of those irksome first steps, and helpfully decide what you should think on your behalf.

More on the trial here, here, and here.

"Sticks and stones can break my bones - but words can never harm me"
(Children's schoolyard chant c.1960s Australia).

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Dignity and courage.

Following you will find THE most inspirational and selfless act I have ever seen.

What would be your life's greatest challenge? Facing the possibility of death is one version, but how about facing the certainty of one's own death. That's the biggy.

Found this via Peter's Blog (Worldman) who had found it via pumuckl (her facebook actually, which I can't easily find). I had seen the lecture thanks to my wife who watches 'Oprah' on cable.

Dr Randy Pausch is dying of pancreatic cancer. But he is not letting that disease determine how he lives. He is not only making the most of his time left, he is passing on the life-knowledge that he has gained. Selflessly and with a grace and dignity that is a fine example for us all.

He gave that 'final lecture' the talk of a lifetime. (Seems he has been asked to give it several times - which he has graciously done).

Randy has a webpage on the Carnegie Mellon University site which is well worth visiting.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Fat (ish) Jet

Another great photo from Alex. This is a BBJ (Boeing Business Jet), of 34 Sqn RAAF. These are VIP transports (eg for senior politicians). (A sort of mini Air Force One).

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