There have been some positive developments recently.

A number of things have hurt my business, chief among them my own mental state however, another thing that has been a major problem is dial customers moving to broadband connections and not being able to provide the latter in most locations.

Recently that has changed, a company we had used to provide DSL connectivity in the Western Washington 206 LATA was bought out by a larger company and while initially this resulted in total confusion with us not knowing what high speed services could be provided in what areas, this has been resolved.

We are now able to provide DSL in any part of Qwest and Verizon’s service area that they have equipped to provide DSL (where DSLAMs are installed and qualified cable exists).

What is more the pricing on the higher speed circuits is favorable relative to what it previously was. Now I just have to figure out how we are going to price and re-work the DSL web page.

A second thing that has happened is that we are also looking at some high-speed WiMAX based wireless solutions and I believe at least one of these is likely to be viable.

In the long term it is my belief that most end-user connectivity will be wireless. The only thing that has really prevented this in the past was the unavailability of adequate bandwidth and affordable coding technology. These things are rapidly becoming historic.

I can’t imagine people settling for being tied down with wires when they can flip open a laptop or turn on a pocket PC or PDA and be connected at high speed, affordably, anywhere.

Anywhere deserves some qualifications, there probably won’t be WiMAX service on the top of Mt. Everest for a while. However, owing to the deep reach of WiMAX, I expect that it will eventually cover more footprint than cellular or PCS service. WiMAX can reach as far as thirty miles from the base, which makes it practical to cover larger rural areas, and to reach areas that would have been prohibitive for cell service because of difficulty of placing a cell tower closer.

What has made much of this technology possible is new modulation schemes. These modulation schemes aren’t actually totally new but only recently have digital signal processors become sufficiently powerful to allow them to be used for high speed data transmission.

I’ll cover this more in the near future on my Radio and Wireless blog.


First there was “peak-oil”, the basic idea behind peak-oil is that production peaks at the point where about half the resources are consumed and then production declines and prices sky rocket. No doubt there will be a time when oil production peaks but quite possibly for reasons different than half of the worlds reserves being used up.

Oil production forecasting is difficult for a variety of reasons. For starters the Hubbert curve is based upon fitting data to a curve without understanding the underlying mechanisms. Sometimes this works but sometimes it fails miserably.

A second problem that makes oil forecasting difficult is that oil is a broad term that applies to a wide range of mixtures of hydrocarbons that are generally liquid at room temperature. Further adding to the complexity is the fact that it is possible to “crack” heavier hydrocarbons and make them into lighter molecules, and it is possible to combine short molecules into longer molecules to turn natural gas into liquid fuels. Doing either involves added expense.

Naturally oil which contains high quantities of molecules that have a high market value without the need for cracking or combining are tapped first since they are the most economic to get to market. These oils, light sweet crude, constitute only about 1/3rd of the worlds reserves.

In 2006, both non-OPEC production and OPEC production increased last year over 2005, and at faster rate increase than 2004-2005. A factor in this increased production was higher crude prices during much of last year. This is an important point, on average about 1/3rd of the oil in the ground has been economically extractable. A higher percentage can be extracted at higher oil prices.

For example, it costs around $7/barrel to pump a barrel of oil out of the ground in Saudia Arabia, about $14/barrel in California, $15 a barrel to extract oil from tar sands in Alberta Canada or from oil shale in Colorado.

Canada has become the United States largest oil supplier with oil from Alberta tar sands where there are some 300 billion barrels of recoverable oil. In the US there some 2.6 trillion barrels of oil locked up in oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. California has approximately 70 billion barrels of heavy crude.

Russia’s production of deep abiotic oil that doesn’t exist according to most western geologists continues to climb. They claim people supporting this theory are just making it up but can’t explain how Russia’s production from deep wells that have drilled past any sedimentary deposits and through granite capstone keeps increasing.

Then there are the White Tiger and Black Lion fields of Vietnam. Both of these involve drilling into granite basement rock and there where oil shouldn’t exist, it does. Wallace G. Dow, refutes the claim of abiotic genesis for this oil claiming that the granite has been uplifted and overlies a sandstone formation that is the source of the oil. This is one of those things that I guess is yet to play out but I believe the abiotic oil theory is credible, even if it doesn’t apply to these particular fields.

The reason I believe the abiotic theory is credible is two fold. First, the raw materials, hydrogen and carbon, of which hydrocarbons are comprised, is extremely plentiful on earth. The oceans are huge reservoirs of hydrogen and oxygen, two parts hydrogen to every one part oxygen. You see carbon everywhere, every life form that exists, coal, oil, natural gas, carbonate rocks, in the form of methane hydrates on the ocean floor, carbon is abundant.

There is a simple reason that carbon is abundant in the universe. After hydrogen fusion, stars fuse helium into carbon. Stars as massive as the sun only do this in the core, and so these elements remain behind as part of a white dwarf at the end of the stars evolution. Stars more massive than about eight suns will go on to fuse carbon in the core into heavier elements but there will be a carbon shell that will be blown off when the star eventually goes super-nova. Carbon is the 4th most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen.

Generally speaking, light elements like these are considered volatiles, and planets that are either heavier or farther from the sun do a better job of retaining their volatiles and not losing them into space.

Thus mercury, which is both light and close to the sun has no atmosphere or water and would be expected not to have much carbon or other light elements as well. The reason is that heat accelerates these atoms to escape velocity and they are lost in space. The heavier an element, the tighter a planets gravitational force holds onto it. Thus hydrogen is lost most easily, then helium, and so on.

Now if we look at our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus, we see a planet that has close to Earth’s mass and radius. Venus’s mass is 4.87 x 1024 kilograms, Earth’s mass is 5.98 x 1024 kilograms. Venus’s equatorial radius is 6051.8 km, Earth’s equatorial radius is 6378.14 km.
Earth’s larger radius means that at the surface you’re standing a tad farther from the center of gravity and so the gravity on Venus’s surface is about 90% of earths. If you weighed 200 lbs on Earth, you’d weigh 180 lbs on Venus.

So Venus, is both much hotter and it only has about 90% of Earth’s gravity and yet, Venus had enough carbon to make an atmosphere of CO2 100 times thicker than Earth’s. Venus also lacks plate tectonics, so it’s quite possible even more is trapped inside the planet. Earth’s atmosphere is approximately 385 parts per million CO2 which means Venus’s atmosphere has approximately, 260,000 times as much CO2 as Earth’s.

That should give you an idea of just how much carbon is likely to be present on Earth, a whole bunch!

Laboratory experiments have been done where carbonate rocks, water, and iron oxides, all of which are present in the mantle, are heated to 1000C under high pressure and what emerges is a mix of hydrocarbons approximating that which is generally found in deep deposits.

Now, I do have a certain prejudice in preferring theories that can be demonstrated in the laboratory, but one of the things opponents of abiotic oil genesis point to is that the oxygen and carbon budgets at the Earth’s surface have remained approximately constant through millenia.

I believe there is actually a reason for this, and that is that there is a natural recycling of carbon through the plate tectonic system. Hydrocarbons that do make it to the Earth’s surface are eventually oxidized, one way or another. The CO2 is then taken up in part by plants on the surface, where they do decay and some are turned into biotic sources of hydrocarbons, but much more is taken up by algae in the Earth’s oceans. That which is taken up by algae is mostly eaten up by other single celled animals which are mostly eaten by larger multi-cellular creatures which use the carbon and calcium to make, among other things, bone or skeletal structures. These animals eventually die and their skeletons settle to the ocean floor and over time form a thick later of carbonate deposits.

As the sea floor spreads from the mid-ocean rifts and eventually subducts under a continental plate, it carries with it carbonate rocks as well as water, back into the mantle, where the process can repeat itself under great pressures and temperatures creating new hydrocarbons.

So given all of these things, I believe a good portion of the Earth’s carbon, and there is a huge amount of carbon, is tied up in hydrocarbons in the Earth’s mantle, eventually a portion of it escapes through cracks in the bedrock and occasionally pools under certain formations where it can be extracted.

Now, I should add that this isn’t to imply that all oil is abiotic in nature, some carbon does get recycled through biota on land, but that is a small percentage.

Because we’ve largely looked for the biotic oil, that’s what we’ve largely found. The Russians have looked for abiotic oil, and they’ve found it in large quantities.

Even if this is all incorrect, I don’t believe that it is, but even if it were, production figures still show we haven’t reached a peak yet, at least not in 2006, and 2006 oil demand was did not increase as much as predicted, and so after a price peak crude prices fell somewhat.

So the next thing the oil companies tell us is that there is a shortage of refinery capacity in the United States. I posted recently about a Department of Energy report that showed world-wide refinery capacity utilization was 90-95%, while here in the United States in February of 2007, it was less than 83%.

Now the oil companies tell us the refinery capacity is inadequate because refineries are down for maintenance. This is beginning to sound a lot like Enron.

Now we’re seeing a world stock market collapse which is based upon the fear that the world economy will slow, and that of coarse has a lot to do with the US economy, which is in the dumpers because we’ve got a huge trade deficit because of all the oil we import and a huge national deficit because of wars we fight.

The world economy has to grow in order to allow impoverished people to achieve a better standard of living. This is important in terms of a sustainable world economy because in countries where people have a good standard of living, the birth rate is low, population growth is negative, excepting immigration from regions of the world where the standard of living is not good.

Bringing all of the worlds impoverished peoples to an acceptable standard of living is the key towards global population stability and by extension sustainability. Otherwise world population will increase until we hit a resource wall and then collapse as many people starve.

In the long run we need to get off of burning hydrocarbons as a substantial portion of our energy budget because we can’t breath the atmosphere on Venus, and it would have a disastrous effect on global climate.

That said I believe we’d be seeing dramatic climate change now in the absence of our CO2 emissions because we are still coming out of an ice age.

This graph, which is part of a EPA report on climate change, (unfortunately, the graph has been removed from the location I linked to, Nanook 12/16/2012) shows us that although we’ve created a carbon dioxide peak much higher than other interglacial periods, the temperature during this peak is not as great as it has been in previous periods even though the carbon dioxide levels are much higher.

This isn’t to say that carbon dioxide plays no role in global warming, but given previous peaks and carbon dioxide levels it doesn’t appear to be a huge role at current levels compared to temperatures that would be expected to occur as we come out of the last ice age.

So I feel at best it’s increasing the rate that something would have happened at naturally but that we’d be seeing global warming eventually regardless and thus from my perspective, the world economy and poverty really deserve a higher priority.


Oil Stranglehold – History Repeats

While looking for information on current oil refinery capacity and utilization, I run across this Wikipedia page describing exactly the same kind of crap that is happening today happening back in 1911.

Exxon’s 2006 profits, $39.5 billion. BP’s 2006 profits, $22 billion, Shell’s profits, $25 billion, all while 2006 was a year of “weak oil demand” (wonder if it has something to do with the price? Nah couldn’t be).

Peak oil advocates keep telling us that the sky is falling even though production for both OPEC and non-OPEC sources reached record levels in 2006. Of particular significance is the fact that production of deep abiotic oil in Russia continued on a steep upward trend throughout 2006.

So having some difficulty convincing us there isn’t enough of the raw material (even though the CEO of Exxon has repeatedly stated that he has never had any problems getting sufficient crude for Exxon’s refineries), now they are saying that refinery capacity will result in gas prices ranging from $3.50 a gallon upwards this year.

Isn’t 100 years of this crap enough? Obviously, they’ve got plenty of money to build refinery capacity, the only reason they don’t is to create an intentional shortage and jack prices through the roof.

US refineries operated at 85.2% of capacity in early February 2007. This is actually below the world average and leads to the obvious question of just how much of this are we going to take? Here, take a look the numbers yourself in this US Department of Energy report.

Consider trading in that SUV for a nice Prius or other efficient vehicle, let’s get that refinery usage down another few notches.


It used to be that a scientific breakthrough was something truly revolutionary. In the early days of search engines, before Google, back when Alta Vista ruled, if you searched on breakthrough you could be pretty much guaranteed that what you would stumble on was more than just mundane.

I blame the release of Jesus Christ Superstar for a lot of the modern day hype. Prior to it’s release in 1970, there were “stars” and there were “models”. But it wasn’t long after it’s release that media started to portray ordinary or even mediocre actors and actresses as “superstars”, and then it spread to models, and every model that makes it is a “supermodel”.

Gradually, it has spread, and now everything is mega or super or ultra. Ordinary things are gone. I suppose this is acceptable in the world of marketing. I can accept that commercials are going to make totally exaggerated outrageous claims because they need to generate excitement for whatever crap they are trying to sell.

Marketing hype does not belong in the world of science. Marketeers have entered and corrupted this field as well. Even the most mundane incremental improvement is a “breakthrough”. Sometimes only the restatement of something that has been known for thirty years is a “breakthrough”.

There is no significance to this post really other than to express frustration. Trying to Google breakthrough’s in various fields that I’m interested in have only yielded so much marketing hype this morning.

For example, did you know the Atomic Force Microscope is a new invention? Neither did I. It was invented in 1986, but that’s one of the items I came across that was hyped as if it had just been invented.

Windows XP Pro SP2 Fix

Microsoft, in an attempt to limit how fast viruses can propagate crippled the TCP/IP stack by restricting it to ten half-open TCP/IP connections.

Many perfectly legitimate applications use more than this and this limit slows things down considerably and causes unreliable operations.

I first discovered this while troubleshooting a problem with Shareaza, a peer-to-peer file sharing program. It was behaving erratically, refused to connect to gnutella1 or edonkey, and it’s firewall test thought it was firewalled even though it was not.

After much hair pulling I finally determined this was cause by Windows XP SP2’s silly restriction.

I found a third party patch that fixes this problem! Originally, I was just trying to get Shareaza to work right. To my amazement intermittent weirdness in MySpace, DeviantArt, and a host of other websites I visit went away after installing this patch. Sites which have a large number of images and used to crawl now come up very fast.

After you do that there are some tweaks you can do to Firefox that are collectively referred to as Firefox on Steroids that make it go even faster. If you have windows XP SP2, do not apply these until you’ve applied the above patch or it will cause flaky operation. Only apply these if you have a broadband connection, cable modem, DSL, satellite, high-speed wireless, etc. These fixes will particularly help if you are connecting over a high latency connection (wireless or satellite).

These things together will really help make your browsing experience a lot more pleasant.

Now, you may wonder why, if this makes such a big difference in performance, why doesn’t Windows XP and Firefox come preconfigured this way?

Firefox doesn’t come preconfigured this way for two reasons:

  1. On a dial-up it may cause slower unreliable operation. This change should not be made to Firefox used over a dial-up.
  2. Without modifying windows XP SP2 as described, Firefox will try to open too many connections at once and fail.

Windows comes with this limitation to restrict the rate at which viruses can propagate by restricting how many IP addresses they can try at once.

Personally, I don’t buy Microsoft’s explanation. If they want to stop viruses from propagating they need to fix the swiss cheese security of the operating system so it can’t be infected with viruses in the first place. I suspect the real reason was to make the operating system useless as a server so as to encourage you to buy more expensive server software for server applications.

Whatever the motive, this patch fixes the problem and makes your computer a lot more pleasant to use on the Internet. Spread the word, tell your friends, together we shall overcome the evil empire!

Drink Your Radiation!

Read this article which tells about how they are putting radioactive pollutants into our drinking water supply.

What’s scary about this is that it’s real. I’ve known about the Potassium / Polonium connection for a long time. It is a significant contributor to smoking related cancer deaths that for some reason is never mentioned.

Tobacco rapidly depletes the soil of potassium. Artificial fertilizers which replace the lost potassium also have some polonium, a radioactive element, in them. Many of the lung cancers that result from smoking are the result of inhaling radioactive polonium.

This is a large part of the reason why you don’t see a statistical connection between pot smoking and cancer like you do with tobacco.

Well, now it gets worse. It turns out that pollution concentrate taken from scrubbers in Florida’s phosphate mine processing plants includes 19% fluorosilicic acid and is being used to fluoridate city water supplies because it is less expensive than sodium fluoride which was purchased from aluminum manufacturers and pulp mills. The fact that it contains polonium, radio active isotopes of lead and bismuth, radon, and other radioactive elements doesn’t seem to deter city officials from adding it to drinking water.

Read the above article for details. I’m in agreement with dentists that it’s good for our teeth but it’s not good for our bones, and the radioactive elements certainly are not good for us.


Incredible how accurate the almanac has been this year, snowed every single time that it said that it would. It would be cool if this year wasn’t a fluke and one could actually make plans. I love how un-ugly things get once they’ve got a few inches of snow on them. Ugly power lines, no longer a problem, white streaks across the sky. Ugly roads, much better in white. Ugly houses white. Everything’s bright.

When you get a good coating of snow across everything and then a heavy overcast at night, the light bouncing back and forth between cloud and ground makes it almost seem like daytime.