February 23, 2008

A Stealthy Question

If a Stealth crashes, does anyone hear it?
A U.S. B2 Stealth Bomber crashed in Guam today, but luckily no injuries or casualties were reported. The B2 is one of the sweetest airplanes to ever fly the skies. Minus the fact that its sole purpose is to evade detection and penetrate deep into “enemy” territory to deliver death and destruction, this alien-esque looking design and state of the art (remember, this plane was developed in the 1970-80’s) technology makes for one rad plane.

At $1.2 billion a pop, the U.S. owns 21 of these planes and flies them primarily out of Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri. The fact that these planes flying global bombing missions from Missouri is just plane amazing and/or crazy. I believe the first salvos of the latest Yawn and Snore, I mean Shock and Awe, that started the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where delivered by the Stealth’s from Whiteman. This is the reason why the B2 has flown the world’s longest combat mission and has seen action in every major campaign since Kosovo in 1999. I guess if you spend $1.2 billion on a fancy new toy, you have to show of its amazing capabilities!

Oddly enough, this plane was named “The Spirit of Kansas” which is coincidently where I am from. It was in Kansas that I first experienced “the flying wing” one afternoon while hunting pheasant. There were two of the planes working bombing runs at a local bombing range when they were right above me. They are such an amazing plane that you literally do not hear a sound until they pass, and even then, the sound they emit is nothing compared to other bombers I have heard and seen. Even then, you stand mesmerized by the sight of this black flying wing that just doesn’t look natural. If you ever get the chance to see them, even if you despise their purpose, it is truly worth the sight. I can only wonder at what amazing technology has already been created that the public has yet to see. Trip to Area 51 anyone?

February 22, 2008

A Trip is Completed...

Around The World For Free
Alex has finished his worldwide trip after 159 days. I happened to stumble upon this journey back on around day 20 or so when Alex stopped by Dominica. Check out his latest videos on his website and with the video. I apologize for the annoying commercial, but it was free from CBS.com. Dominica made and impression on Alex, giving power to the the testimony that Dominica really is a truly remarkable place.

February 21, 2008

Brief Hiatus

I traveled to Indiana today to see Rachel for the weekend. It is one of the few times we get to hang out and I'm so excited to be here. It was a shock, weather wise, to come to Indiana. I left "The Rouge" and it was a balmy 70 degrees (F) and I arrived 4 hours later in Indianapolis and it was 20 degrees (F) and snowing. Talk about a shock to the system! I will generate some drafts, but I doubt I will post any daily postings till either Sunday night or Monday sometime. I apologize. See you next week!

February 20, 2008

"Sweet" Barrel of Oil out of Thin Air!

Can't Spell Delight with out GE??
Its been about a week since Valentines Day and that box of chocolates is down to those few flavors we're not all that thrilled to eat, and they just sit there, waiting to be eaten. It appears though that the sweets we love and enjoy may not taste so sweet in the near future. For the first time, Roundup ready crops of sugar beets are now available.

Monsantos (manufacturer of the broad spectrum weed killer Roundup) has introduced a Genetically Engineered sugar beet that can withstand direct application of Roundup. In conjunction with this new sugar beet, the FDA has changed the allowable residue limit of the active ingredient found in Roundup, Glyphosate, to be present in higher doses. Inevitably, the Glyphosate will end up in some for or another in the processed sugar. Hopefully enough of the public will hear about this and possibly change the course of action. But I doubt anything happens...

Out of Thin Air
In something that seems like science fiction, two scientists at Los Alamos (yes, that Los Alamos) have proposed a plan to help fight two of the big battles of our times. Our dependence on fossil fuels and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

The two scientists have provided a plan that they say can take CO2 and convert it into synthetic fuels by known and proven scientific methods. As one of the researches states "Everything in the concept has been built, is operating or has a close cousin that is operating," which is a step up from many such "solutions" that has been presented. BUT there is one little wrinkle to this solution. The process of converting CO2 into synthetic fuel requires, you guessed it, a great deal of energy. To be viable on a commercial scale, the processing plant would be required to have its own dedicated power plant to provide the energy needed, preferably nuclear or some other clean power technology.

Though there are several blockades before this technology would become viable, it may be an interesting twist to the climate change challenge we are starting to face. It would undoubtedly take a tremendous amount of capital and resources to replace the vast oil empire, but imagine if the car of the future already sits in your drive way! It defiantly makes for an interesting challenge to conventional thinking on the climate change subject!

What Lies Ahead?
Oil bounced back over $100 yesterday and its been a surprise at how fast it has risen. It only seemed that a couple of days ago it was back down to around $86 and was looking to go further. But a falling dollar and a couple of key issues have seemed to push investors back into the oil markets. Bernanke is saying that he is willing to cut interest rates again (great) and Mr. Chavez has been talking his rhetoric once more.

The underlying principles of supply and demand appear to be thrown out the window. The latest report the AIE shows that gasoline stocks are nearing a 14 year high for this time of year in the U.S. and crude supplies are above average. Demand for fuels and oil derived products are also slowing, but the prices keep rising. This summer is expected to see another record U.S. average for fuel prices, and unfortunately, my run of NEVER paying for $3 gas may soon come to an end. We shall see.

February 19, 2008

If the Price is right...

Blingin Plates
There was a song, I believe by Nelly awhile back that had the line in the chorus "What does it take to be #1?..." In the United Arab Emirates it takes approximately $14.3 Million (US). This is what an individual paid for the license plate with the single digit "1" in a recent action in the UAE. The explosion of the car culture in the the booming cities along the Persian Gulf has made obtaining a "vanity plate" of some significance an important task among some of the richest sheiks in the land. The normal UAE plate has 5 random characters on the plate, and as the number of characters drop, the "value" of the plate increases. Special plates with repeating digits such as 11 or 22 are also highly prized.

According to GT Spirtit, (mentioned to me by mewalt), the individual that purchased the 1 plate also purchased 100, 5, and 7, making it one, if not the, most expensive license plate collection in the world. But remember, all of this money goes to charity. In this case, it goes to a charity set up for individuals hit by motor vehicles...

Jamaica River Dying
It is humbling day by day when you look at all of the news that comes out about the impacts humans have had on the natural environment. We lose not only the biodiversity and inherent beauty of nature, but more and more we lose a cultural bound that revolved around those certain species. Many use the example of indigenous tribes in the arctic that depend on seals and whales for sources of calories and the social and cultural implications. But its not the only place in which these impacts can be felt.

The locals in the Rio Grande Valley in Jamaica have been harvesting and preparing local river shrimp (janga) for hundreds of years. The old "primitive" means of gathering the shrimp are forgone for a simpler and "easier" method of using poisons or dynamite. It demonstrates the power of money when individuals will dump known toxins into the ecosystem to make a quick buck. Luckily though, many locals are starting to protest such practices and the government has made it a crime to perform these acts.

The total impact of the toxins is unknown, but many say that there has been adverse affects on the local ecosystem, in particular the janga. The quote that drives home what I want people to think about is
“To think that children some generations down the road will have no idea what a janga or a crayfish looks like. ...” How very true; how many other species around the world are sharing this fate?

Some good news to pass along on Dominica and their newest partner Venezuela. The Carib tribe, the indigenous people of the Caribbean occupy a portion of land on Dominica northeast side. The Caribs live below the standard of living of most people on the island due to segregation. They have been fighting for equal treatment and have made some gains recently.

Venezuela has pleged to provide $4.5 Million (US) to Dominica to help build homes and school for the Carib people. I have been critical of the Chavez administration and still much opposed to it, but I applaud (if it comes to fruition) the administration for pledging to support the tribe and I hope that, unlike many times in the past, many new homes and a wonderful school is built!

$100 Oil
Oil briefly popped back over a $100 today for the first time since early January. I'll post more on this tomorrow! Here we go again

February 18, 2008

Two all Beef Patties and a Catalytic Converter HD-DVD

MOOvin to a Recall
This weekend, the largest beef recall in history was announced by the USDA. The recall is for 143 Million pounds (~65 million Kilograms) of beef from a southern California beef packing facility.

There were clear inspection violations and complete disregard for humane treatment of the animals, as undercover video has shown. The animals, not able to walk, were shown being shoved with a forklift into the facility. The reason for the recall is the video showed violations of the "Downer" rule (as I'll call it) that stipulates that animals unable to walk on their own are not to be used for human consumption. The inability of an animal to walk could mean the presence of the dangerous Mad Cow disease or many other ailments that inflict cows in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO's).

I posted earlier about the impact that CAFO's have on the environment and the cows themselves. It just reinforces the fact that we are addicted to meat and cheap food and will sacrifice the health of an animal for the bottom line. There are clearly lapses in our food safety that are disturbing. Where were the health inspectors that are supposed to be present at the time of slaughter? We should feel obligated to know where and how are food is processed...farm to plate type mentality. Unfortunately though, with the industrial food machine its becoming more and more blurred each and every day.

Gold Mine Car
Every time I got to the supermarket it seems that the shopping carts turn on their homing device and somehow "manage" to find their way into my parking spot. It seems like wherever my car is parked it soon becomes one of those stalls that are open for depositing the carts when you are finished. Now, I have another worry on my hands; someone swiping my Catalytic Converter right out from under me!

That’s right, the standard emissions control apparatus that is mandatory on every vehicle made since 1975 is now hot commodity on the metals market. You didn't know you were sitting on a little gold mine did you? The converter contains trace amounts of the highly precious metals platinum, rhodium, and palladium. This means that thieves are cashing in on the easy grab from a plethora of opportune locations. In most cases, a thief can snag one in less than 60 seconds and turn the converter in for a net profit of $200 (US). Not bad money for 60 seconds of work and a heck of a lot of trouble for those hit by this ordeal.

This is the result of the drastic increase in commodity prices on the global markets and metal thieves are making pay dirt. The rate of of converter thefts are following the trend of copper theft from new and existing homes. If this were to happen to me and my car the theft would cost me about $250 (US) or more just in parts and labor to fix this 60 second grab. Can these guys still the shopping carts that bang into my car instead? (Editors Note: I do not advocate stealing of shopping carts!)

HD DVD Death Blow
Finally, just finally the Hi-Def DVD format war may be coming to a close. After a spate of bad news of movie studios, rental outlets, and electronics dealers putting their allegiance in BluRay, is appears that HD DVD may be nearing its end. No official word has come from the Toshiba camp to discredit or confirm the reports, but it may just be about time to throw in the hat! Finally, we can start adopting a new technology (make sure to dispose of your e-waste properly) and get on with our lives of solving the problems that matter most...Does a BluRay look better on 52 or 60 inch Plasma HDTV?

February 17, 2008

Lego of my Bloomberg

Bloomberg Bites Back
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC this week decided that he was not going to be environmentally friendly. The City of New York passed this week, a bill that would require the manufactures of electronics to offer recycling for the goods that they sold within the city. The law would proactively trying to solve the growing problem of e-waste going into our landfills. Now I agree with Bloomberg that the logistics of the passed law still need to be ironed out, but threatening to not enforce the law is ludicrous and a huge burden on everyone. That includes Mother Nature

E-waste is going to be a growing problem and it will get exacerbated during this coming year because of the analog-to-digital switch for TV broadcasting. Bloomberg should be in favor of this program because New York City exports nearly all its trash to nearby states, at a significant cost to the city, the consumer, and the environment. E-waste is expensive to haul, crowds already shrinking landfill space, and had huge environmental costs associated with it. Come on Bloomberg, be proactive, put your dismal environmental record behind you and get this law passed.

Lego Encourages Recycling
One of my favorite toys growing up was Lego's. Those wonderful square blocks that you could make into just about anything! But one of the biggest problems I had with creating my mega Lego-villes was the incredible amount of trash my Lego people created. My Lego-villes were definitely modern America Suburbia as they threw away EVERYTHING. Most of the time it was dumped in Lego Lake. But now, my Lego-villes will be clean, because Lego has just released the Lego Recycling and Trash truck. Wahoo! The kit comes with its very own Sans Man as well, so there is no need to take Luke Skywalker away from fighting the Evil Empire to take out the trash.

'Eclipse' of a Weekend
This weekend was one of those weekends in which I just kicked it into high gear and got a lot accomplished. Don't forget that there will be a full lunar eclipse this Wednesday! For those of you in the Americas, we will be treated (depending on the weather) a lovely show starting around 9 P.M. cst. with full eclipse coming at 9:26 P.M. cst.
So what is it that I did this weekend? Well I'm glad you asked
1.) Ran 7 miles
2.) Emailed family and friends
3.) Went to the Auto parts store, bought oil filter, 5 quarts of oil, fuel filter, and fuel additive
4.) Changed my oil and fuel filter, and then disposed of my oil at Autozone...for free!
5.) Took M&K's dogs Snuggles and Chiquita to the park
6.) Went grocery shopping (Albertsons/WholeFoods)
7.) Hair Cut
8.) Cleaned the Apartment
9.) Did dishes
10.) Recycling drop-off!!!
11.) Did Laundry!
All in all a great weekend and am jacked for the coming week. It was just a good weekend and I hope you had a great one as well.