The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's hard to be politically correct when the world starts to look like “Monty Python's flying Circus.”

It isn't that any US oil company would say “no” to Iraq contracts if the situation shaped up there and contracts came their way. But Iraq is a mess right now, and is there is no security—political, legal or physical—to guarantee a return on a multi-billion dollar investment. It's unlikely that any of these companies asked for this invasion because they all prize stability—the stability of contractual arrangements, of a regular return on capital, of not getting their employees killed and their equipment blown up—above nearly anything else. Even the stability guaranteed by very nasty governments. Dealing with the “devil,” whatever headgear it wears, is pretty common in the oil business.

But there is an oil component to the invasion and occupation, and I believe it is this: the United States, through invading and occupying a nation with significant oil reserves, would show the world especially the up-and-coming consuming nations of China and India—that in the event that push comes to shove, and this resource gets scarce, Americans come first.

The Myth of “Peak Oil”

A very interesting article on oil production and the predicted “oil peak,” which is that peak oil production after which it's all downhill, may be a myth after all. There are differing types of crude oil—some are easier to obtain gasoline from (and when you hear the price of a barrel of oil quoted, it's that type of oil—the most expensive, sought after type) than others (which are cheaper by barrel, but more expensive to extract gasoline from).

It also goes into some details about oil refinery and NIMBYism of the US that I was unaware of:

Recently, Aramco offered to build and pay for two brand new refineries in the US to help meet that demand on the condition that someone else obtain all the necessary environmental permits first or that the federal, state and local governments involved fast-track the process and protect it from legal challenges. It was a generous, unrealizable, and extremely cynical, offer.

The Myth of “Peak Oil”

But this bit (funny in and of itself):

(Does anyone remember how funny it was 20 years ago when we all learned that Cuban soldiers fighting on behalf of the Marxist government of Angola were guarding the Chevron concession—the concession that earned Angola the hard currency to pay for those troops?)

The Myth of “Peak Oil”

Reminded me that I have a similar bit in my personal quotes file:

A few years ago the left-wing government of Angola employed Cuban troops to defend US oil refineries against a Maoist revolutionary supported by the Reagan Administration. It's hard to be politically correct when the world starts to look like “Monty Python's flying Circus.”

R. Shweder, NYT, 9/27/93

So that was Chevron! How about that.

Anyway, I'm bullish on energy futures and the resourcefulness (or despiration, take your pick) of us humans. I for one would like to see nuclear energy used more here (the pebble bed reactor design is quite safe actually) with less dependance on oil for energy production.

This is different

I've never hid the fact that I have an online journal (or blog—I'm not entirely sure of the difference myself) but I've never really gone out of my way to announce it at work, given some of the stories I've read about (even Mark was affected by a previous job—that's why he no longer blogs).

“Sean,” C, my boss, said, “about your blog … ”

Uh oh, I thought.

“Could you change my pseudonym?”

“Excuse me?”

“I don't want to be known as simply ‘C,’” said C. “I'd rather you use ‘Smirk.’”

“Oh.” Certainly wasn't expecting that. “Okay.”

“Great,” said Smirk. “Keep up the good work.”

“Speaker of the House recognizes the Senator from Disney”

Congress extended copyright an additional twenty-five hundred years. Spike Greenbaum owed every dollar she had made to Israel, because St. Jerome's translation was based on Hebrew sacred texts. To use the Bible, all Catholics became Jewish, and Disney bought the rights to the Iliad and the Odyssey.

And everyone was content, except for the storytellers who had to buy a Disney license or prove that their work did not owe anything to any story that had ever been part of human civilization.

Via, The People Who Owned the Bible

As I was leaving for work yesterday, Smirk asked if I still had the Electric King James Bible up and running. “Yes,” I said. “but the server crashed and I had yet to install mod_litbook on the backup server.”

Talk then turned towards having other translations available, and I said that yes, I wanted to have multiple versions, but I've yet to come across another translation that was in the public domain. Talk then turned towards intellectual property issues in general, and copyright in specifics and how things are going crazy here.

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8, clause 8

“Limited time.” Yeah, that's a good one.

And if things keep going they way they are, this little story might just end up being true.

I personally wouldn't mind seeing copyright terms being the original 14 years, plus an optional 14 year extension (and if that was the case today, my humor column would now be in the public domain instead of the pseudo-copyright-limbo that it's in right now) but short of the total collapse of Disney I don't see that happening any time soon.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”

After writing my last entry I was curious to see if FAU still had a school newspaper. The one I wrote for, the Atlantic Sun, imploded due to a scandal involving funding from the Student Government—basically, the administration became critical of the solely run student newspaper and forced it from campus; the Student Government then turned around and gave the equipment (which belonged to FAU) and lots of money (which belonged to FAU or the students, depending on who you believe) to the former editorial staff so they could open up an student run newspaper off campus. There was a lot of controversey whether the Student Government had the right to do that.

This was also around the time that the Student Government nearly imploded—the Student President resigned under somewhat suspicious activities along with the Student Senate Speaker. Then the Judial Branch declared the recently held elections invalid which prompted the Sentate to start impeachment proceedings against all the Justices. So if the election was held to be invalid and the Justices were all impeached, then the Student Government would have ended up being a Vice President (who would have been the President at that point), three Senators and no Judical Branch at all.

Well, it's over ten years later, and I see nothing much has changed except for the name of the newspaper.

Obligatory Picture

[It's the most wonderful time of the year!]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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