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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Greenwood, IN

Early Warning has been off line- I've been cavorting about the country, gamboling about the USA. I had a lot of final grades to submit on 18 DEC 05, and I left for holiday on the 19th, arriving in Greenwood, IN. I hate to say this - naaaah - I'll say it: Greenwood Indiana is the posterchild of all that is completely fucked up with America. This place is screwed. Everything is only accessible by automobile. The winters are cold and damp. The summers are hot and muggy. These people are completely and utterly dependent on petroleum. All of their consumption is accomplished by way of giant national chain stores and regional franchises.

I write this from a Panera Bread Cafe. Easily half of the people sitting around me at this moment are obese. Not a little fat, not somewhat overweight. Obese. Full disclosure: I could stand to lose a few pounds (30 to be exact) but I *know* that I need to lose it and I have a plan I am implementing to do so. These people have no plans on doing so. These people are pigs at the trough, gulping down coffee and carbs.

I will now look out the window at the parking lot, and report the vehicles in the lot:

13 SUVs
8 minivans
6 full sized cars (Cadillacs, Buicks, a mid 90's Oldsmobile, etc.)
14 midsized cars (Chevys, Pontiacs, mostly, some few Toyotas)
9 compact cars, one Toyota, one VW, the rest Chevy or Ford.
1 sub compact - a Mini Cooper.

NO Priuses. No Honda Insights.

Clueless clueless clueless.

The Panera Cafe uses natural gas to cook the food. The place has (I glanced into the kitchen and guess-timated) a total of approximately 150 sixty watt bulbs. Some of them are spots, so they're a bit "brighter" because their light is more directed. The Panera Cafe, as it is presently configured, will likely cease to exist in my lifetime. I suspect they will be able to heat water for coffee in the future, but the coffee will be much more expensive. People will savour a single cup, instead of guzzle 20 oz. buckets of the stuff.

A young couple sat down next to me. She complained that one of her professors demanded that she write a paper about the environment. She said she really doesn't care about the environment. She's a psychology major. She and her boyfriend prayed before eating. I must remember that I am in the Bible Belt. If I takes a copernican stance, then I would conclude they are typical of the environment, and given that the fellow across from me is researching the book of Romans, I consider my observation reasonable.

The young couple next to me prepared to leave. she had ordered a loaf of soup: a small loaf of hard crusted bread filled with soup. she ate the soup and threw out the bread. Then they prepared to leave.

I told her "I heard you say that you don't care about the environment. Well, it doesn't care much about you, either. And frankly, in the greater scheme of things, the environment always wins. Just a bit of advice..."

They walked away. The look on her face was of utter cluelessness. She even had a faint smile on her face.

They will graduate from college, with their useless degrees in psychology and marketing. They will live on to become part of the problem, and drive their Stupid Useless Vehicles to the Mall to buy their food and consumer items. I find them all so depressing. The irony is this: if there is some nuclear conflict, the cities will be destroyed, but the cities consume (per capita) fewer resources than backwater exurbs like Greenwood, which would be largely spared in such a conflagration. It's places like Greenwood that are the problem, and their destruction will be part of the solution. The funny thing is: it won't take a nuclear war to rid the planet of dumps like this - the lifestyle is so unsustainable they will simply destroy themselves... unfortunately, they are so self-absorbed and greedy, they will want to take the rest of us with them as they careen over their cliff of wasteful narcissism.

This blog can be read by most anyone in the world with computer access and a knowledge of the English language. The rest of the world must understand that some of us: even as we sit in an energy wasting cafe full of idiots - are not idiots. We are working to change things. It will take active reform from within, but it will also take active resistance from without in order to avoid catastrophe. I can only hope the catastrophe starts in places like Greenwood with their endless miles of cavernous Targets, Kohls, Menards, Home Depots, Bed-Bath-And-Beyonds, Megaplex Movie Theatres, and the endless cavalcade of McDonalds, Burger Kings, Subway and Quiznos Sandwich Shops, KFCs, Paneras, Starbucks, highways, SUVs, McMansions on treeless lots, the never ending Horror that is the exurban nightmare of early 21st century middle America. Gads, these people disgust me. I'm not here in Greenwood because I want to be here - my in-laws, by weird twists of fate, live here, and I'm visiting them for Xmas.

I've told "Grandma" what's going down. She doesn't believe it, but she doesn't have to - she'll be dead before it all hits. And grandpa is way too old to be concerned. My sister and brother in law? They just bought a 3200 sq. ft. house on a treeless lot, amid an enormous field of other 3200 sq. ft. homes on treeless lots. Even if they planted some fast growing pine NOW, they won't have enough wood in 15 years to keep themselves warm in any sustainable way. They don't want to get it - they are too heavily invested in the Horror. Luckily, there is a train line that goes through Greenwood. There is no train station, but building a platform is a fairly simple task. These fools might not completely starve. But I have NO idea how they will transition to a sustainable lifestyle.

I will return to a more regular posting schedule in the new year. The next few weeks are going to be spent packing and flying and flying and flying and flying...


Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Next Car - probably not...

So I did some digging and found some rather discouraging information. Clearly, in the process of reducing energy consumption and going to a lighter, slower vehicle fleet, regulations are going to have to change, a lot, as they are clearly antiquated and exclusive of anything but heavy gas-guzzling death monsters if you want a powered vehicle that runs on more than 2 wheels.

For example, in my lovely home state of CA -

CA VC Section 407. A "motorized quadricycle" is a four-wheeled device, and a "motorized tricycle" is a three-wheeled device, designed to carry not more than two persons, including the driver, and having either an electric motor or a motor with an automatic transmission developing less than two gross brake horsepower and capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on level ground. The device shall be utilized only by a person who by reason of physical disability is otherwise unable to move about as a pedestrian or by a senior citizen as defined in Section 13000.

Amended Ch. 1292, Stats. 1993. Effective January 1, 1994.

Basically, the law defines a motorised quadricycle as one of those motorised wheelchair thingies you see advertised on daytime TV and AARP magazines.

However, if the vehicle has 2 or 3 wheels it falls under:

Definition of a Motorized Bicycle

CA VC Section 406.
(a) A "motorized bicycle" or "moped" is any two-wheeled or three-wheeled device having fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power, or having no pedals if powered solely by electrical energy, and an automatic transmission and a motor which produces less than 2 gross brake horsepower and is capable of propelling the device
at a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on level ground.

(b) A "motorized bicycle" is also a device that has fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power and has an electric motor that meets all of the following requirements:

(1) Has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts.

(2) Is incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20
miles per hour on ground level.

(3) Is incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when
human power is used to propel the motorized bicycle faster than 20
miles per hour.

To thoroughly complicate things, at the same time there is this little bit of joy:

HR727 is the House bill that was enacted as Public Law 107-319.

The law simply amends the Consumer Product Safety Act, authorizing the Consumer Product Safety Commission to promulgate regulations for electric bicycles. The law does not get into any specifics about electric bicycles.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission duly added a definition of "electric bicycle" to the regs that bicycles have to comply with.

The definition reads as follows:

A two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.

Apparently the full text of bicycle regs appear in the Code of Federal Regulations at Title 16, Section 1512. You can access the CFR at the Government Printing Office website Type in 16cfr1512 to go straight to the bicycle regs.

Which makes all this rather complex.

What I think it really DOES do is kick quadricycles out of the mix of easily assimilable vehicle forms, while permitting tricycles.

My guess is this was on purpose - if you could build an electric assist quadricycle that had a range of 60 miles, there would be no reason for people to spend countless sums of money on automobiles.

Especially if that quad had a body fairing to keep the rain and cold out. As I noted earlier, delta trikes are scary, and tadpole trikes are low to the ground and get a little "wiggly" under power in a curve, unless they can camber (lean) into the curve. In anycase, trikes with a fairing are fast as hell in the flats due to their aerodynamics. The power assist is mostly for getting them up hills, where the recumbent position is less efficient.

What I thought was simple and straight-forward seems to be much more nuanced than I thought....

The idea of a slow lightweight quadricycle cuts directly to the essence of the automobile in contemporary society as a technological practice in transportation.

According to This Webpage filled with this kind of info from a motorcycle advocacy point of view, "The average United States driver travels 29 miles per day and is driving a total of 55 minutes per day. (This is an average vehicle speed of 32 mph.)"

So, if one halved the average speed to 16, and doubled the amount of time one travelled, people would naturally seek to live closer to work. This would tend to rejuvenate cities like Newark and Jersey City NJ, Oakland CA, Camden NJ, South Central LA and other ruined close in cities and neighbourhoods, as employed and somewhat less dysfunctional people will seek to reduce their commute and living expenses. At the same time, the expense of owning such a vehicle (which would weigh around 70 kg instead of 1500 kg and use no direct fossil fuels. Such vehicles would be most useful in the south and west parts of the USA, which have better weather.

And such gas free vehicles, as they enabled this shift to higher density, would help blunt the edge of the Long Emergency and help form a more peaceful and orderly transition and die-down of the species, instead of a rapid and violent die-off. However, the automotive companies will have to start building these things en masse, ASAP, and the legislation that makes them difficult to implement and the highway speeds that make them impossible and dangerous on said roads will have to change.

(I want to thank Doug from Utah for challenging me to look into this.)


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My Next Car


Seats two, top speed 18 mph.
Weight of vehicle: 135 lbs.
motor: 24 volt 750 watt Powerdrive motor assist
Range: without electric assist? as far as you can pedal in a day.
With ONLY electric assist? 30 - 60 miles, depending on weather, load, and terrain. Which is about as far as I would want to pedal one of these in a day, anyway...

I figure all I need a car for is to schlep a few miles to work, pick up groceries, liquor & drugs, clothes, etc. and occassionally go downtown so I can dance to the boogie (get down!) with my sweeeeeetie pie, and "the next morning", take the weeee child to school. This thing would more than suffice.

It's open, so winters would truly *suck ASS*, but you just do what motorcyclists do: dress appropriately, or move someplace warm.

(In that regard, I was thinking this vehicle could benefit from an actual "body" perhaps made of doped canvas and safety glass. I'm uncertain as to how it would effect the range and speed - it would certainly have less drag than an open vehicle, and be more comfortable in the cold, but it would increase the weight, and could be kind of stifling in the heat of summer... perhaps a removeable canvas body?)

In any case I think ultra-light electric assist vehicles are the bee's knees. If anyone who commutes less than 5 or 10 miles to work owned something like this, the world would be a much better and cleaner place - we would see a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption, and people might actually lose some weight. What a notion...


Friday, December 09, 2005

Interesting Things Are Afoot...

In the U.S. House of Representatives, hearings were held in the Energy and Commerce committee, and two of the participants were Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Tom Udall (D-NM). They basically laid out the Peak Oil position for Congress. Their testimony was recorded and can be viewed HERE. You'll need the evil Evil EVIL Real Player to view it.

It's nice to see SOMEONE in the government finally getting a clue.

It snowed here today, preventing me from getting to work. I got sleep a little more than usual...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hilary Clinton Pisses Me Off

This is what's going on: Democrats HATE the Bush Junta, for obvious and good reasons. An awful lot of Republicans don't trust the Bush Junta, and this also runs true with Independents. So: the triangulation, at present, going into the 2008 election is this - the dittohead retard Republicans will vote party line. The Democrats will vote for a Democrat, and it would likely be most ANY Democrat tossed their way, as the Bush Junta has made such a mess, my cat, Eric, would be a better leader.

So the question is not winning the hearts and minds of the bible thumping retards - they're a lost cause. And it's not like it's going to be hard to rally the Democratic troops to come out. So, the question is over the so-called "middle". Frankly, there is no middle - there are only various axes of interest - but the "perception" of the "middle" has created this illusion, and it has political weight in the American Political System.

Hilary pretty much has a lock on the Democratic nomination. So, now she feels she needs to disarm the right by acting like she's "in the middle". And the most recent example of this is her Support For a Law That Bans Flag Burning.

So, she voted for the war (REALLY STUPID), she supported continued presence in Iraq (REALLY DUMB) and now this flag burning thing.

She is exceeding my patience. I'm afraid that if she goes up against McCain, she'll lose. And McCain is just a tool for the Neocons. He might be opposed to torture, but he supports the neocon militarist agenda. He's useless.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Recent News and Events

I've been rather busy with my day job lately, so posting has been difficult.

I have some interesting news, though.

First, it seems the Iranians are looking to sell their oil in euros, not dollars. If I recall correctly, the last country to try that was Iraq, and if I'm not mistaken, I think the USA started bombing the crap out of them shortly thereafter. I don't think the USA will invade Iran - as the incompetent fascist boobs in the Pentagon's North Annex (aka the White House) haven't got the brains, money, or manpower to invade Iran. Nope nope nope - I think what will happen is the American Spooks will figure out where the Iranian nuke development sites are, and then sick the Israelis on it. Given that Iraq and Jordan are between Iran and Istrael, I seriously doubt Iran would engage in a direct military response. But dollars for donuts some suicide bombers would probably show up in Tel Aviv.... It would be a big mess, but Iraq would still be grabbing the headlines.

People have asked me, "Geeee Mister Studebaker, what do you think we should do in Iraq?"

I think we should get the hell out of there as fast as possible - but the real key is Iran, and the USA should stop jerking Iran around and sit down and make some real peace happen. If George Bush had even a nano-fraction of the balls that his bluster implies, he'd pull a Nixon and secretly fly his stupid smirking ass to Tehran and Make A Special Peace. Both the USA and Iran have common interests, and we owe Iran a lot of political favours given the miserable history the two have shared. Sure, they took hostages, and killed a bunch of people, and that was pretty freakin' evil, but in the greater scheme of things, the USA has done vastly more damage to Iran over the years than Iran has done to the USA.

Even a dedicated imperialist like Thomas P M Barnett knows that the key to peace in the middle east lies in Iran...

But, no, Georgie Peorgie hasn't the sense to do that - he'd rather hunker down and get mean... Why? Because he and his junta are too stupid for words and can't understand how their fixations work against their own best interests. Which is oddly coincidental with their powerbase who are less well educated than the opposition, and consistently vote against their own best interests and sign up for a Republican Junta who not only doesn't give a rat's ass about them, but considers them to be a bunch of gullible wackos.

Russia has been increasingly less interest in coddling American interests - not like they had that much to begin with - but now the Russians are saying they would be very happy to refine nuclear fuel for Iran.

Also, there is big buzz that Lieberman might be tapped to become U.S. SECDEF. Great. That's just all we need....

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nihilism part 02

One of my esteemed listmates on Energy Resources responded to my note on Nihilism, and had some good points. I responded to his post as follows.

Mr C wrote:

>You have more than a good point.

Thanks for noticing! I get so much grief so often, it's nice to hear a positive voice.

>So lets be constructive.
>Let me start by modifying your proposition
>into an If-then-else.


>IF (conditions are met)
>THEN {we will migrate into a sustainable future }
>ELSE {we will have severe economic depression;
>a final obliteration of the biosphere;
>and ultimately a crash of the human population due to
>overshoot exhausting essential resources};
>We may want to make some modifications to the THEN and ELSE
>statements. But this is easy. Defining the conditions to be
>met is where all the work is at. Believe me, this is the way
> hardest part, and probably the reason so many intellectuals on
>this subject come to rest in the doomer category, myself

I agree, it is a daunting task.

>So lets make it easy for the first step. Lets only name the
>conditions that need to be met without getting hung up just
>yet on "how" that condition is to be met, or ever could be
>met. This way at least we can say we defined the problem just
>a little better by reducing it into its components.

I agree. Also, to mis-use/apply an old Marxist term, the "prevailing conditions" at the time of will have their own dynamic and set of contradictions, which are largely unpredictable in specific, even though the substructural political economy is essentially unchanged since the 19th century. Which is a coplicated way to say: we don't know what it will be like then, although the economic fundamentals will probably be similar to today.

>Here are just a couple of the conditions that need to be met
>to bring us into the THEN clause and out of the ELSE clause.

(I've snipped a bit for clarity's sake:)

>A: present energy consumption is within the sun's annual
>budget for Earth
>B: non-renewable petroleum is reserved for use as a mineral
>and not a fuel
>AND solar, hydro, wind and biomass at sustainable levels
>are the only fuel sources used for all human activities.
>AND ??...
>As you hopefully can see, the lists will be long and decompose
> ever more into further lists of conditions if you attempt to
>properly deconstruct the problem.

>I'll jump way ahead and bubble it all back up and say stupid >things like "the people in the Los Angeles basin can no longer
> drive fossil fuel powered vehicles to carry out their daily
>lives". It is near impossible to impose such a conclusion,
>and yet it is impossible to avoid external reality imposing
>the same conclusion over time given our draw down and exhaustion
>of stored fossil energy.

OK: try this: how to double the effective mileage of a given fleet? Even/Odd driving restrictions. Forces people to buddy up.

How to get old clunkers off the road? CA's plan is fairly ingenious. Up the smog restrictions preventing older cars from passing. If it fails, the state will buy the car for $1000 and send it to the crusher for recycling. My 1991 Toyota Corolla has a weak oil ring in one of the cylinders, causing it to just *barely* fail. I could have leaned out the injectors and have it shake and shudder through the test, but the car is only worth $1200, and has some nasty dents thanks to a certain clueless asshole who lives down the street... But anyway - I'll be getting a cheque for $1000 in January.

You see- there are lots of ways - each one plays a small role, but in agregate, they amount to something. The problem is, right now, they don't amount to enough. THAT has to change, and that's why we have to work on making it happen. The alternative is not acceptable.

>I'll shift back to doomer now and just say that I find the
>scale and complexity of our problems so intractable when
>confronted with the reality of politics that it does indeed
>seem hopeless. Yet I agree with you that nihilism is not any
>answer at all. This is probably why so many people are on the
>ROE2 list, in my words, "trying to figure out how best to survive
>the coming dark ages". Homesteading, communities and forming
>other kinds of safety bubbles is the repeating theme. Plus the
>occassional side themes of "guns, and how best to defend your >family from roaming dog packs and the occassional looter".

Could you send me a URL so I can get on that list? thanks.

>Like you, I refuse to say it is hopeless. But I'm quite
>stymied on how to create a positive future for the big
>picture pre-collapse. There is some amount of hope to be
>found in constructing small pictures that form refuge from
>this very large catastrophe in the making.

I belive it is to be done one step at a time, with more and more people making one step at a time. Eventually you have an entire flood of people doing the right thing.

The first thing to do is to Get The Message Across, and even though I despise them, I must say that the TV ads for BP are a step in the right direction. I don't believe BP is *actually* doing all it can to help avert catastrophe, but at least in the past few months with all the money they made after Katrina, they do seem to have bought a clue or two and are doing what they can to inform people that Things Are Going To Change.

The next thing to do is to MARKET the change. It's kind of like dieting. You don't lose weight by not eating. Yes, you will lose weight that way, but you eventually DIE. The way you lose weight is by eating LESS, eating BETTER, and EXERCISING. If you pigged out and slothed your way into obesity, then you have to eat properly and exercise your way into svelteness. Same goes for the first world. We pigged our way into this, so now we have to manage our intake to get out of it.

Eating less: Consume fewer items, consume less energy.
Eating right: acquire things that are built to last and are functional and integral. Acquire energy from green sources.
Exercising: develop local sources for the acquisition of food, clothing, and shelter. Have this process even atomised into household production systems (growing gardens, beer, cheese, etc.) and then into neighbourhood/town exchange systems.

Also, the solar diet isn't the only energy source - there is wind, geothermal, tides, etc. Technically, wind is solar, and tides are lunar, but you get the idea.

As I said before: it's not going to be easy, and the longer all this gets put off, the more dire the transition is *guaranteed* to be. I'm not discounting the "doomer" scenario - I'm simply giving it some perspective and USEFULNESS contexted in the IF/THEN or (by your angle, which is a good one) IF/THEN/ELSE. WiI *thin that context, it has a great deal of meaning. Outside that context, it's an invitation to paralysis.

I *really* appreciate your take on this. Yes, it is *HARD*. But if we don't figure it out, it won't get figured, and then we're screwed.

That's why I've been hammering away at issues of Victory/Crash conditions. It's kind of like classical software testing. You have to test the boundary conditions, load, race conditions, input/output, usability, design, etc. It's all part of making a proper piece of software work.

WE, and I mean WE, as in everyone born since 1945, has a responsibility to Help Figure It Out. Now. Not later. And that's why I'm bringing up these "meta-issues" of Victory/Crash conditions and definitions. Once we have a grip on what we need to have happen, we can set about inventing our way to that conclusion. Otherwise, we're just wasting our time.

I'm going to post this to my blog - it's a good discussion.

Again, thanks for the feedback. This weekend I will be looking at these parameters in greater detail, and I hope I can arrive at some suggestions or ideas for directions and policies and other points of debate and action.


Stuart Studebaker

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