Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I learned a great deal when I was actively writing this blog.   The most valuable take-away for me was analyzing the future through scenarios, rather than certitude.  I am interested to watch which scenarios speculated on ten years ago come to pass.

It seems to me oil production is in the desperate running to stand still pattern, and it will be there for a while yet.  The Arctic will never be as simple as the desert sands, and the most useful potable energy source mankind has known will steadily wane as the fracking century progresses.

Nuclear sucks, still.   It might start to get some serious regulatory attention in fifteen years or so, if we don't trigger a nuclear war in the interim.   This is not an idle number on my part.   It is tied to the pathetic aging infrastructure.  Fill in the blanks.

Electricity production is trivial.  Nothing pleases me more than watching the electric utilities fight a desperate, pathetic, rear-guard action against solar (for one).   California, Australia, New Zealand, Arizona.   Different states.   Same result.

Methane?  This isn't potable energy, it is strategic.  There is plenty of this stuff, it really needs pipelines to move it efficiently, unless one is in the energy laundering game (Alberta).

So, energy.  Just enjoy the sun and that should get us through.  It will be quite a haul over the next few decades but at the end of it some changes will be evident.  It is impossible to assume otherwise.  We are still in the pattern of  mechanized industry but that can't last.

Have a happy new year.   - fin -


Monday, February 21, 2011

a factor of ten

Broken Promises from Range Fuels

In the past week, an increasing numbers of stories have covered the Range Fuels affair. The Wall Street Journal’s take was the most high profile coverage:

The Range Fuels Fiasco

Vinod Khosla stepped in with his hand out. The political venture capitalist founded Range Fuels and in March 2007 it received a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy—one of six cellulosic projects the Bush Administration selected for $385 million in grants. Range said it would build the nation’s first commercial cellulosic plant, near Soperton, Georgia, using wood chips to produce 20 million gallons a year in 2008, with a goal of 100 million gallons. Estimated cost: $150 million.

In early 2010, the EPA said Range would finally produce some fuel in 2010—but only four million gallons, not 100 million, and of methanol, not cellulosic ethanol. So taxpayers have committed $162 million (along with at least that much in private financing) to produce four million gallons of a biofuel that others have been making in quantity for decades. This politically directed investment might have gone to far more useful purposes.

As some readers wrote to me and noted, the WSJ article reads as a condensed version of an article that I wrote a year earlier called Broken Promises from Range Fuels.

Robert Rapier has de-constructed something that was never really there. The Vinod Khosla energy investment portfolio. This outcome is not unexpected to me. A few years ago I cast a bushy eyebrow at this software asshole Khosla and his bad math, scribbling a few choice words about this well connected Pied Piper. Click on the saint below to learn more.

The thing about it is, Khosla may or may not have understood why he failed. Understand, software assholes make 200 million dollars on a big play and they think they've accomplished something. But software is ephemera. There is an existing base of platforms, growing on one end and shriveling on the other. These platforms run on energy. For a software maker, the difference between 10 units and 100 million units is negligible in terms of production. Really, getting the licensing figured out is probably more energy intensive these days than delivering the bits.

Of course, 100 million units of software X is what turns a humble software person into a software asshole. Word, friends. I imagine Khosla thought printing energy would be as easy as printing bits.


And the next time one is glancing in awe at the balance sheet of one of the software "bigs," SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, whatever - remember that the amount of money sloshing around every year just for semi-refined petroleum ("crude") is on the order of 584 to 730 billion U.S. dollars.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

yum, mea culpa

Gulf Seafood Sales Get Boost From U.S. Military In Wake Of Oil Spill
Gulf seafood sales fell sharply after BP PLC's Gulf well blew out in April, spewing millions of gallons of oil into the sea. Consumers have long feared that fish, oysters and other products could be tainted by oil and chemicals used to fight the spill, even though extensive testing has indicated the food is safe. The perception has lingered – along with the poor sales.

It's all good. Feed the troops with healthy seafood! The hole is plugged, Matt Simmons was wrong about a second hole, and he isn't around to explain. Rest in peace Matt. You were right about most of the lies, wrong about a few. Me? What me worry? Let's bury this like a massive plume of oil sunk with corexit, a tar ball resting on an inch of sludge. Just another feather in the cap for the Goldman Sachs portfolio.

Oh, and the Corexit is still there, but that's cool. I don't live in the Gulf region, and if I did, I wouldn't be seeing oil any more - at least - not as much.

First Study of Dispersants in Gulf Spill Suggests a Prolonged Deepwater Fate
“We don’t know if the dispersant broke up the oil,” Kujawinski added. “We found that it didn’t go away, and that was somewhat surprising.” [...]
Kujawinski and her colleagues found one of the dispersant’s key components, called DOSS (dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate), was present in May and June—in parts-per-billion concentrations--in the plume from the spill more than 3,000 feet deep. [...]
Using a new, highly sensitive chromatographic technique that she and WHOI colleague Melissa C. Kido Soule developed, Kujawinski reports those concentrations of DOSS indicate that little or no biodegradation of the dispersant substance had occurred.

The lies have all been painted truthy, and as time passes, the victor rights history with a steady hand. Is the salt dome out in the Gulf cracked like a Pennsylvania frack? Of course not. That cap is tight.

Go to sleep. Stay inside. If you go outside and a bird falls out of the sky and hits you, that's natural. Scientists know all about it. They go outside lots.

Some people say they're getting sick, but they're probably stupid. If they're not stupid, they'll soon be dead, and either way, it kind of amounts to the same thing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

extraordinary claims

Casting about for more information on some of the Gulf oil disaster analysis provided by Matt Simmons, I came across a recent thread on the Oil Drum, perhaps the best clearinghouse for information on the technical aspects of peak oil, or at least tied with the overall breadth of the Energy Bulletin.

This doesn't mean the Oil Drum, or the Energy Bulletin, are respected in the mainstream of thought. Far from it. A handful of savvy journalists use these sites as valuable sources of information. A source, not an oracle. Those of us who surf the margins would be well to remember this - and I think perhaps the good professors might chafe at this sea of marginality, leading to the following instruction to the class to be proper scientists,

Matt Simmons on Dylan Ratigan Today, Closing the Relief Ports, and Open Thread 2
"We would like to hear what you think--please avoid the conspiracy theory talk and assess the veracity of the claims that Simmons is making from a scientific point of view. We can find no other industry professional making the claims made in this interview, but we wanted to throw it open to the experts that lurk here to hear what the best and brightest thought about this instead of dancing around it--I'd rather have a thread, tear it apart, and put it to bed. So, if these claims need to be debunked, then let's tear them apart on the scientific merits for the record so that folks can be disabused of these ideas. So, is the situation MS describes possible/plausible? If so, how? If not, why not?"

Most of the people on The Oil Drum are smart enough, which lead to the forum mostly getting a passing grade. Dutifully, a majority of responses described Matt Simmons as a senile old fool. Grandstanding for unknown reasons, completely off the reservation and devilishly shorting BP all the while. (Him and everybody else, I guess.)

Now, I like the Oil Drum. I read the Oil Drum. I support the Oil Drum. I support everyone who signs up for the thankless task of tacking upwind against the risks and blind spots endemic to our carbon energy civilization. Perhaps I also appealed overmuch to authority in the previous post. I've got to remember why my blog is on hiatus anyways, repetitive bitter satire has the half life of Chinese take out. I should aspire to something a little higher.

Unfortunately there is a crux to this. It is an oil soaked ghost turtle. An explosive shrimp. It is surreal and real. A surface slick of light oil (refined by the Gulf) and visible from space. A rig the size of an aircraft carrier and framed in steel has melted and sunk. A claim or two has been made. But who is making the extraordinary claim?

There is limited basis for skepticism of Matt Simmons analysis. In fact, pseudo skepticism of same generates several extraordinary claims that fly in the face of the actual evidence we have at hand. The burden of proof is not just on Matt Simmons. He has made falsifiable claims. It is on those who think that machine gun pace of debunked lies, emitting from the government and Beyond Petroleum SPIN MONKEYS are anything but garbage. Perhaps we need a peer reviewed study just to make sure? Come now. Who is even allowed to visit the site of the spill, or fly over it, without threat of arrest? Scientific observations are quasi legal in the Gulf at this time.

So let's review Simmons claims.

Huge blowout. I don't think this part is controversial. Biggest ever, arguable.

Well Casing damaged or destroyed. This is a major concern. Nothing "conspiratorial" here. Many commentators have focused on this issue. Simmons suggests it is gone, because that is common in blowouts. Ancillary to this is his suggestion that a nuke is required to close the breach, a suggestion that pisses many people off, and certainly carries major risk in and of itself. This prediction is falsifiable.

The primary controversial claim made by Simmons relates to the volume of oil emitted in this disaster. He says 120,000 barrels a day. The official estimate is (for now) 30,000 barrels to 60,000 barrels a day. The original PUBLIC estimates were off by an order of magnitude, and Simmons says merely double that again. What a crazy person! This guy has either lost it, or we need to wait two more weeks for someone to pull their other thumb out. Simmons bases his claim on the vast amount of oil visibly spinning out around the gulf like a Catherine wheel and anonymous sources. This prediction is falsifiable.

As to the volume, and the potential for a massive slurry of tar and heavy oil slinking along the ocean floor, I suggest some of the analysts out there can try making stacks of fruit loops to test for plausibility. These difficult abstractions must be modeled scientifically, after all. I used cheerios. (They usually float, but not after I got through with them.)

This whole thing is just a tragedy. Now the methane is apparently going to kill the bacteria that were supposed to eat the oil. One can't cover up something that is visible from space. It is weird, and surreal. I wish it had never happened.

A postscript is that Matt Simmons apparently met with Stephen Chu a few days after his appearance on MSNBC. I can't help but wonder what he told him. Maybe he doubled down.

BP: Simmons Still Sees Bankruptcy; Massive Hole at the Well Bore? (Updated)
Yesterday, (Simmons) entertained Republican Senator Susan Collins and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu at the Institute. [...] Turning to the spill, Simmons reiterated the rather surprising conclusion that the current “top kill” effort by BP, as well as the planned relief wells, will not stop the Gulf spill. He says he talked over the weekend with scientists on board the Thomas Jefferson, a research boat used by the National Oceanographic Administration.
The riser leak is a deception,” says Simmons. “The hole is in the well head — it’s the well bore.” [...] Simmons sees further ripple effects from what he considers the massive size of the leak.
“When they [the Thomas Jefferson] finally got the permission to circle the three-mile radius,” of the well, “once they got up wind [of the blast], within 20 minutes all the crew [of the boat] were nauseous, and several people are still in the hospital. There is benzene coming out of that stuff. If a hurricane finally blows up the Gulf, we could have millions of people die,” on the Gulf coast.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

paint it black

Alternate Link for below video here,

As people drive about in their cars, vroom vroom, they call into talk radio shows to complain about BP. Meanwhile what is leaking into the gulf is oil. BP is irrelevant. To that end, it is stomach churning to listen to Matt Simmons discuss the problem as he thinks it is, rather than as it is described by the White House or the public relations arm of Beyond/British Petroleum.

Simmons is one of the good guys in the indelibly marginal field of Peak Oil. Peak Oil is a reasonably accurate model of reality, so that doesn't explain it's marginality. It is marginal because it lies outside the boundary of how western culture conceives of itself. This is why cloning Dolly the sheep was a shock in the nineties for many - yet a reader of the marginal literature of science fiction yawned at the news. C'mon - cloning - a fifties idea. From the last century now.

Simmons has taken grief from the right of the political spectrum - from technocratic twits who believe money plus technology energizes the world. The lefties pick on him because OBVIOUSLY he is trying to run up oil prices to LINE HIS POCKETS with this peak oil scare-mongering.

But of all the commentators, Simmons was never a scare monger, and went towards the sensible path of suggesting conservation and wind power.

Yet here he is, talking at the end of this video about a massive pool of oil painting the gulf coast black. He a sensible guy. A rational player. He didn't trade in his bona-fides or shred his scientific integrity to work for MMS.

Random thoughts pop into my head - like Obama will lose his job over this, and no one will really care. BP might go bankrupt, and no one will really care.

The Gulf is dying and people care.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


One thing I've been thinking about lately is the zeitgeist of the United States.

At some point, shortly, people are going to realize that the system is failing, and the very myths of our technocratic culture will begin to break down. Such as, perpetual growth of concrete sprawl and attendant ballooning of property values. Etc. This doesn't work so well when the banks are failing, the fish disappear and the corn or rice is a genetically modified vector for poisonous pesticides.

How will the culture react when the pile of glittering rewards shrink? Detroit is where is starts. Every day that city shrinks, as does morale. Now one hears stories of 60% of homes in Las Vegas underwater (mortgage) because people have nothing left to gamble.

The termites are in the foundation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

who's that rappin?

Oil spill: Gulf of Mexico disaster 'growing by the moment'

The explosion, the sinking, and now the spill from the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig couldn't have come at a worse time for President Obama and other proponents of expanding deepwater oil exploration off the US.

Obama. Bush Light, half the calories, but sold by the same corporation for the same price.

The current incident demonstrates the risks and degree of difficulty of the global gambit to go ever further afield into the earth's deep crevasses to find oil. Trying to shut off a well 5,000 feet below the ocean surface has never been done.
Early reports were that BP workers using four remote-piloted subs had managed to jam the 5,000-foot "riser" from the well to the surface, These reports were wrong, with the Coast Guard saying Monday that the leak was not contained, but had, in fact, tripled in size in 24 hours.

No one said the Transocean Deepwater Horizon was the Titanic. No one said she was unbreakable. Floating like a butterfly, she stung the ocean floor like a bee and blew up. This is no little ethanol refinery. No energy laundering operation. A billion dollar play has crumpled, and the energy to payback the investment is floating towards the United States. The viscosity of karma may now be measured.

"If this doesn't give somebody pause, there's something wrong," Florida Gov. Charlie Crist tells the Miami Herald.

Some of us paused when the itch got scratched back in 2006: "A faulty natural-gas well was the cause of the Lusi mud volcano in Indonesia that began erupting in May 2006 and hasn't stopped yet, burbling up hundreds of gallons of mud each day and so far burying four towns and 25 factories"...

The past is for historians. I told you so is always too late. The military wants to know when their water powered jeeps will be ready.

Don't count on the "experts" managing this honking, pooping black swan. Experts are creatures of structure and status, shorthand for money. Yes, wade offshore for oil. Not as simple as Texas, is it? Peak oil is unfortunate in that like a small child who asks for world peace, remediation goes completely against the system of the world. Like a small child, it is largely ignored.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

tending weeds and pressing roses

A few changes, as I ponder uncorking a few new ideas in the near future. Yes, now I think about writing on peak energy rather than actually writing! It doesn't actually save me time of course - the ideas rattle around in my brain, instead of yours, where they belong.


Real Climate,
With prejudice. My standards are low enough as it is. This doesn't mean I'm a burn it all guy, unconcerned about global warming. I am anti-structural by nature and I smell a structure.

Long time no see. Makes one wonder.

Past Peak,
Blue skies.


Club Orlov,
I agree, a SKS is a good choice. Comes apart like a tinker toy. Now I just need a sailboat and a good book on maritime law. And a method to gut and clean a jellyfish, cause that's what we get. Eat lead, primordial suckers!

Peak Oil Debunked,
This dude makes me laugh. He's as conceited as me, MIGHT BE my nemesis. Something new on the methane front, as well. Bears investigation. In the time since this popsicle stand began, didja know that bushcheney allowed a new process domestically called hydraulic fracturing to be used to acquire natural gas? Let me tell you friend, supplies are BOOMING!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

thinking backward

It is said that as one ages the perception is that one is younger than is in fact the case. This is not really a surprising distortion. Much valuable science is performed around the obvious. By the same token, surely I am living about five years back in a self hallucinated past. By god, I'm enjoying it.

Today, scanning the articles at Energy Bulletin, one might think there is some risk in being that peak oil commentator who lives in the past. Not in terms of physical reality of the position, but in terms of cultural relevance.

Fundamentals are still valid. Oil is depleting. Natural gas is depleting. Fine, friend. The need for alternatives press in. So raise the alarm, bell the cat, and don't be scared. One shouldn't be scared. The cat is dead. There is no pressure at the top end for oil supplies, or need for greater production, at present. And as the economic collapse progresses, there is an outstanding possibility that while production declines literally, demand will drop, masking the shortfall.

The peak oil crisis: a turning point?
It does not take much excess supply to fill that 80 million barrels worth of floating storage that is bobbing around on the world's oceans right now. Less than three months during which oil exporters are pumping out a million b/d of excess supply will do it nicely. It has now been about five months since OPEC realized there was too much oil for the demand and began a series of production cuts now totaling 4.2 million b/d. [...] We know there was an oversupply of oil because of the price collapse, we just don't know how much. While the reporting agencies are circumspect as to the size of the drop, they seem to be suggesting 1 or 2 million b/d.

The slightly terrifying conclusion I draw is that it will be difficult for the reality based geology crowd to get anyone's attention for a while. Years.

Not just that, it will be hard for anyone to get a loan to invest in alternative energy, period. And I'm critical of about seventy-five percent of what passes for alternative energy, as a casual reading of this blog would reveal. The bad bets are giving the workable projects a bad name because the entire sector is seen as marginal.

"Urgency surrounds numerous clean tech companies, which saw a drying up of tax equity-structured financing in 2008," stalling solar, wind and biofuels programs and threatening some of the companies with bankruptcy, said the report obtained by The Associated Press.
Despite the overall growth in 2008, venture-backed investments in clean energy declined by 14 percent in the last three months of the year, reflecting the impact of tight credit markets, according to the report released Wednesday.

So I reckon some time around 2014, after the fiscal “swamps” have been drained, the globe will reformulate around a new system of bartering fresh water for oil, and discover that there is not much of either left.

It will never be 1939 again.

[Image sourced to]

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

such a winters day

No, this isn't a post about California, any more than anywhere else. Just a pause for reflection, after four December's of posting on the topic of peak energy - something I understand and mean to be peak usable energy in an industrial sense.

In other words, something which is rooted in and provides context for our present living arrangement. Our civilization.

There is another leg sprouting from our culture, and that is capital. Interesting to notice is the uneasy relationship between capital and energy.

Oil pricing on the markets has seen violent, volatile shifts this year - whipsawed by a rising and falling dollar, the inertia gathering behind the global depression and yet this is all against a backdrop of almost unabated consumption of energy. A few percentage points change at the top.

Depletion of those easy reservoirs of energy - - coal, oil, natural gas, continues. A steady drumbeat.

Commentators who don't understand how investments in renewable energy are ultimately indexed to non-renewable energy, are weaving the usual myths about how investments in renewables will be stalled because the price point of oil is too low.

So-called alternative energy is now, as it has been for some time, a necessary investment if our culture wishes to tramp a bit further along the path known.

Investment in alternative energy might also make obvious that other paths are possible, and even desirable.

But it is kind of moot, as capital shrivels, the bizarre effect may be that energy for change lies latent, or more likely misused for war and rumors of same. Just another night in Gaza. At the end of the day it is about trust.

The year ahead could illuminate our potential. Be hopeful that it will not show a gully carved down to hell.

We all know our vices too well. The untouched heights are what we seek.

Happy New Year,
jon / 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the day after - part three

The United States annual 700 hundred billion dollar Military budget has long been a cipher and a certainty. The U.S. manages to fund a space program on 2 percent of that. The dollars are real, and they are glazed over North America proper as evenly as possible to ensure every voter, in every district, has a stake in the continuation of this boon.

It is likely that in the coming years this budget will be cut back out of bankrupt necessity. One wonders if there is time to shift the focus of national defense in the short term. It is now apparent, as highlighted by both Obama and McCain, that energy independence is a national security issue.

Consider a shift in manufacturing from missiles to wind turbines. At roughly 1000 dollars per Kilowatt, what would we get for 100 billion of national security investment in wind? Approximately one hundred million kilowatt hours of electricity. This is just napkin math, change the numbers and change the outcome. Certainly, these same dollars could be directed to build ten nuclear plants. But if this national security wind manufacturing was sustained year by year, at the level noted above, eventually the entire 2.3 trillion kilowatts of North American electricity production could be replaced – in this case over twenty years.

Had we started 8 years ago, we’d be half way to clean energy and energy independence.

This is really a thought experiment, but it is a major concern that as liquidity has been sucked out of the market, the possibility for new ideas and new directions is heavily constrained, making it vastly easier to “predict” the future. Less scenarios to account for. The scenario being run – where taxpayers bail out banks – is one of real cash vanishing from the economy.

The return (it is hoped) are dribbles of credit. Well, hooray. Peak oil is unfolding, folks, and the U.S. (one of many countries now with a similar plan) just spent 700 billion + 250 billion so that banks can continue to extend credit.

Current United States investment in alternative energy is the period at the end of this sentence, and investment in the military is everything else on this page.

So Americans, call your senator, congress critter, and presidential candidate of choice and let them know that energy independence is a national security issue and we have the technology.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

the day after - part two

Surveying the wreckage, with martini in hand, or better yet, a slice of apple pie, one might be inclined to flip out.

A fair response, but it is time to change ones mind. Turn it, twist it, and then re-program. This might involve hitting a television in the face with a sledgehammer. Many of the constrained energy scenarios – and responses to same – are the identical response needed for a depression. This upcoming depression will segue directly into a constrained energy environment.

The crisis demands an industry to engage in on a national scale, a hoover dam, something to turn the focus of the age from money to people. More on this – much more – tomorrow.

For now, food for thought.

Where will one get your consumables, if there is limited supply at the grocery store at the grocery store, or the bread line?
Grow as much of your own as possible, and chicken eggs are an excellent source of protein.

Where will one live if jobless?
Planning now might keep you out of a tent. Pooling resources with other humans is always a good bet.

If the whole world is going bankrupt, why not me?
Take this idea with a grain of salt: The common refrain one sees on the media to “pay down your credit card” is absolutely correct in normal times. These are not normal times and paying banks with interest might not be the best use of your cash RIGHT NOW. Let's watch how the emergency develops.

Neighbors never moved in, the pool next door is fetid – can one grow food over there?
Move out of Arizona and California exurbia while it is still possible. Get to water.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the day after - part one

The financial conflagration gathers strength – touched off by the mortgage crisis as a dynamite primer, but exploding on account of unsupportable shady investment practices. Lacking steady dribbles of cash to cover the heavily leveraged, endless trillions of speculative credit/money, the game ends. Various billion dollar bailouts are a drop in the bucket – not even addressing mortgages that have already failed. Much less all the tea in Iceland.

The big tent of speculation is in greater part hot air, and removing a few supports of real cash here and there has started the whole bit of tatty cloth fluttering towards the ground. The carnival is defunct.

This crisis follows fast on the heels of record high oil prices, which have then been hammered back down by the economic conditions. This has long been predicted by peak oil analysts, although usually as a progression of high oil prices directly causing the economic downturn. While oil prices are a contributor to the recessionary economy, the financial crisis is not directly rooted in oil prices, but the effect will be the same.

Tom Whipple and Steve Andrews comment:
In recent months US and world oil consumption have been dropping due to high prices and the worsening economic funk. Whereas in recent years worldwide demand for oil increased by about 1.5 million b/d every year, that number will shrink to a few hundred thousand b/d annual increase for 2008. If the economic situation gets much worse, demand for oil probably will go into actual decline.
If, as seems likely, the omnibus financial bailout does little good and the world goes into a prolonged recession, then we probably are on the peak/plateau of world oil production right now. Demand will drop, production will be slowed, and new multi-billion dollar oil projects that are not already well underway will be delayed or cancelled due to lack of demand or capital to pay for them.

The stock market had been resonating on the border of non linear for a while now, swinging back and forth with a marked lack of rhythm or reason, preparing for the now apparent state shift. But the market is just a sick canary, and there is no reason to expect the financial system will be stitched back together barring perhaps one possible "fix" – global, concerted inflation to spread the capital shortfall around and get things moving for the big boys. Of course, this "fix" would turn the middle class standard of living into a Zimbabwean delight.

Tomorrow, how to change your life.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

victory garden of the week - July 14

making my little piece of the world just a little greener (post gazette)
(T)his year, something inside went "click." All those articles about decreasing one's carbon footprint by using locally grown food finally sank in. And what could be more local than the plot of crabgrass right outside the door, which thus far has existed for the sole purpose of being mowed? Couldn't it be put to better use?
Now I find myself coming home from work each night and marveling at how fast the stalks and leaves have shot up and proliferated with basically no effort on our part. Mother Nature helped too, providing so much rain in the early weeks that we didn't have to water.

The banks will never foreclose on your fresh tomatoes. Watch for slugs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Las Vegas in winter

Down and out in Las Vegas The Independent
With Americans cutting back on luxuries, and the price of transport rocketing, the so-called "Vegas vacation" is facing the axe. This week, as the nation celebrated Independence Day, major hotels were taking stock of a fall in all-important room occupancy rates from their usually impressive 95 per cent levels to nearer 80 per cent.
Local bankruptcies have quadrupled. The property market, which rode the wave of a boom for most of the past decade is now below its peak by anything from a quarter to a third (depending on whose figures you believe), while Nevada now boasts, if that is the right word, the nation's highest foreclosure rate. The number of empty homes has caused a health scare after it emerged that mosquitoes – possibly carrying the killer West Nile virus – are breeding in abandoned swimming pools.

Even as the air wheezes out of the bag, one wonders how mindful Americans are of the permanently changing landscape. High gas prices, recessions, and even depressions are not new to North America. Everyone wants this whole mess to turn the corner - sweep out out the rats, bring on the new President, a new day, and perhaps falling gasoline prices after the coast is drilled for sweet black gold. Smart cars will be docked into Hummers instead of replacing them.

America is a population that is among the least equipped in history to handle a systemic collapse. People died slowly on live TV during the Katrina disaster. Americans love their media, not their neighbors. Those who are planning their next gambling run down in the casinos just as soon as ticket prices come down and the card gets paid off have no idea at present that this day will likely never come.

The primary hubris of the energized civilization is the power switch. It is such a casual weakness. Nothing happens without it. We're not built to do without it, and most of us don't even know how it works.

It is a strange feeling of unease as an individual, to finally face these weaknesses in our culture for real. The real news is still ignored, while many are ready to start dreaming of the housing collapse turning around, or what have you.

Imagining a herd of robot consumer narcissists when they begin to feel peckish is a nightmare scenario. We've all built our cocoons, our personal worlds, each of us a perverse cockroach in our own right, ready to come boiling out into the streets as soon as the system changes.

Perhaps I should grow a really long beard.