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Archive for May, 2007

Thank you, Apple

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

With the release of iTunes 7.2, Apple launched “iTunes Plus”, which adds support for new DRM-free songs with high quality 256 kbps AAC encoding. These songs cost $1.29 per song instead of the usual $0.99. It seems like a reasonable premium.

The thank you is to Steve Jobs and EMI for taking the bold step to make DRM-free music available to those of us who legally download and pay for music and don’t share it with the world. Hopefully the rest of the music industry will see the light soon.

Now we just have to wait for Hollywood to catch on.

Al Gore on George W. Bush

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

“The essential cruelty of Bush’s game is that he takes an astonishingly selfish and greedy collection of economic and political proposals then cloaks it with a phony moral authority, thus misleading many Americans who have a deep and genuine desire to do good in the world. And in the process he convinces them to lend unquestioning support for proposals that actually hurt their families and their communities. Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what rightfully belongs to the citizenry of America and give as much as possible to the already wealthy and privileged…”

The myth of middle-eastern oil

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

The other day I received a message which had been forwarded around about a million times, warning of the dangers of our dependence on “Middle Eastern Oil” and decrying the high prices we pay to those “Middle Eastern” oil companies.

The fact is that over half of our crude oil comes from the Americas, about one quarter comes from Africa, and only about a fifth comes from the Middle East. The table below is from the Department of Energy.

Crude Oil Imports (Top 15 Countries)
(Thousand Barrels per Day)
Country Mar-07 Feb-07 YTD 2007 Mar-06 Jan – Mar 2006

CANADA
MEXICO
NIGERIA
SAUDI ARABIA
VENEZUELA
ANGOLA
IRAQ
ALGERIA
KUWAIT
BRAZIL
RUSSIA
ECUADOR
COLOMBIA
LIBYA
CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE)
    

The following table is mine and shows the summary information by region.

Americas CANADA 1,823 19.7% 52.2%
MEXICO 1,475 16.0%
VENEZUELA 1,033 11.2%
BRAZIL 174 1.9%
ECUADOR 210 2.3%
COLOMBIA 107 1.2%
Africa NIGERIA 1,156 12.5% 25.2%
ANGOLA 570 6.2%
ALGERIA 484 5.2%
LIBYA 59 0.6%
CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE) 58 0.6%
Middle East SAUDI ARABIA 1,330 14.4% 21.7%
IRAQ 464 5.0%
KUWAIT 208 2.3%
Other RUSSIA 92 1.0% 1.0%
Totals 9,243 100.0%

It appears reasonable therefore to assert that if the US could cut its demand for oil by about 20%, it would have no reason to import from the Middle East. That would do wonders for its “energy independence” and “energy security”. It also seems reasonable to ask Americans to start bashing the Canadians and Mexicans instead of the Arabs, since they are the ones actually supplying most of the oil.

Refineries

Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the profit in the oil business belongs to the refineries who have the capability of restricting supply. The quotes below are from an NPR story published on 5/20/2007, titled “Lack of Capacity Fuels Oil-Refinery Profits”.

“Prices are likely to remain relatively high this summer, though. Most of the extra money consumers are paying at the gas pump is going to refiners, who perform the crucial but often overlooked task of turning crude oil into useful products.”

“An unusually large number of U.S. refineries were offline this spring. That allowed refineries that were operating to charge more for their gasoline. It also led to allegations from some consumer advocates that refiners were deliberately withholding gas in order to drive up prices.”

See http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10554471&ft=1&f=1001

The Finger and the Moon

Monday, May 28th, 2007

“All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon; and those whose gaze is fixed upon the pointer will never see beyond. Even let him catch sight of the moon, and still he cannot see its beauty.”

“When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.”

My Bacon Number is 3.

Monday, May 28th, 2007

I have a Bacon Number of 3 because I appeared in an episode of the Dave Allen show (which might have been called Dave Allen at Large, not sure) with Dave Allen, the Irish comedian, on BBC Television when I was a kid in the 70′s. According to The Oracle of Bacon at Virginia (see http://oracleofbacon.org),

Dave Allen (VI) has a Bacon number of 2.

2) Dave Allen (VI) was in Aspel & Company (1984) with Dustin Hoffman
1) Dustin Hoffman was in Sleepers (1996) with Kevin Bacon

What’s your Bacon number?

Thoughts On Science

Monday, May 28th, 2007

“any mathematician will tell you that 2 times infinity = infinity, so that there is no objective sense in which an infinite universe that that has expanded by a factor of two has gotten larger” – Max Tegmark

“Sadly, for many, the response is to retreat from complexity and difficulty by embracing the darkness of fundamentalist unreason” – Lord May of Oxford, in his final speech as president of the Royal Society

“With creationism in the saddle, American science will wither. We will raise a generation of ignoramuses ill-equipped to run the industry of tomorrow, much less to generate the new advances of the days after tomorrow. We will inevitably recede into the backwater of civilization, and those nations that retain opened scientific thought will take over the leadership of the world and the cutting edge of human advancement.” – Isaac Asimov, The ‘Threat’ of Creationism, New York Times Magazine

I can’t believe he said that

Monday, May 28th, 2007

“I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians, who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who try to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’” – Jerry Falwell (September 13, 2001 on Pat Robertson’s TV show)

Politics and Society

Monday, May 28th, 2007

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

“The common people will let it go. Oh yes, they’ll sell liberty for a quieter life. That is why they must be led, sir, driven, pushed!” – Mr. Alexander in A Clockwork Orange

“It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear” – Douglas MacArthur

“We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac” – George Orwell

Quotable Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Monday, May 28th, 2007

“If the Apocalyse comes, beep me” – Buffy

“The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it” – Buffy

Giles: “Into every generation a slayer is born. One girl, in all the world, a chosen one. One born with the…..”
Buffy: “…..the strength and skill to hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of evil. Blah, Blah, Blah.

“I cannot believe that you of all people are trying to Scully me” – Buffy

Paul McCartney on iTunes

Friday, May 18th, 2007

From Apple.com: Apple today announced that thirteen-time Grammy award winner Paul McCartney’s new album, “Memory Almost Full” is available for digital pre-order beginning today exclusively on the iTunes® Store (www.itunes.com). iTunes customers pre-ordering the 13 track album in the US will receive the “Dance Tonight” music video when the album is delivered and the single “Ever Present Past”, immediately upon pre-ordering the new album.

Additionally, Paul McCartney’s full catalog of 25 solo albums will be available for the first time digitally on iTunes later this month. I ordered mine this week! Looking forward to getting the rest, and seeing the Beatles on iTunes…




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