Heading Out

Seeking the winds that help to sail on Shakespeare's tide.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The hobby for my retirement

Storm clouds of war
Originally uploaded by Heading Out.
Well I decided to learn to post pictures, and so we try with this one. It is Mousetrap Farm outside of Ypres just before the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. It was built in Strata and the figures are done in Poser. I still need to add some cows and a couple of horses and the ruined castle behind it, but learning to do all this is going to keep me amused into my old age - so I hope. Actually Strata has just teamed up with Bryce and so I can probably improve the trees and grass as well.


Creaking backs

I don't know if it's because of the weather but back ache is going the rounds. I can only stave it off by exercise, and travel (groan) makes it worse. The Actress has been usually relatively unsympathetic but today made her first visit to a Chiropractor (and goes again tomorrow and Friday). After being a bit sore most of the day she is now definitely improved.

The Administrator is alas not in quite such good shape. Yesterday she was the subject for a new student, as she was being X-rayed for her back problems. Since the student was inexperienced she was the "training aid". It meant she was on the table too long, and so she was in quite a bit of pain today.

Well today I delegated another report (this is going to my head) aand got the presentation all done. My part will only take about ten minutes, so hopefully we can have the whole meeting over by lunch and I won't have any problem getting back. Since some of the work is fairly new we are doing a careful dance to make sure it stays relatively secure. Getting a patent very rarely generates any money, but it does help in selling the programs, so we'll see how it goes. The time I nominally saved (is this Juxom's Paradox ?) was spent in working on a couple of budgets for existing contracts that are about to run out, so that we need to ensure that all the money was appropriately spent. Eye glazing work mainly, and I did drop off once in front of my screen.

Talking about security the first firm that promised us a quote hasn't come back with numbers yet (even though we told them we needed them in a hurry) and the second came back with this proprietary system that will cost a maintenance fee and buying special cards from them. That is not the way we want to go since cards can be given to friends or lost on the one hand, and having to develop a separate system rather than using campus ID cards is isolationist on the other. So we are going to see if we can't find some other vendors around. Given the times I am surprised at the lack of basic packages.

So if things go well (hollow laugh) when I get back I won't be able to get into one office - since it won't have my fingerprint, and my new computer will have arrived and been installed. (It's actually here but for the first time we did it through the campus IT folk, what that means is that instead of opening a box, sticking the new machine on my desk, running a firewire from the old one and moving the programs, I now am waiting for a week while our central staff install the only two programs they have, and then it will be ceremonially brought down, and I can spend the next twenty minutes installing the remaining ten or so programs that I normally use. But I must set a good example. Bunch of Rabbits !


Monday, March 28, 2005

Another week

The Specialist came back from a couple of weeks off this morning, and came in to catch up on the news. Which led into a series of grateful delegations of duties - "Go get a lock and we'll see if we like it!" - He chose the thumbprint and we'll see how it goes.

"Call and arrange matters for the small course we might teach," I got that one to him just in time since the person arranging it on the far end called just thereafter. And so it went most of the morning and part of the afternoon, me remembering what had come up, then giving it to him to fix. That's the nice thing about going out of town , since you won't be around someone else has to fix it.

Well actually that's not all true but it was a good excuse, and I had the second draft of the report to revise, and a new set of assignments in to grade. And now its time to do the taxes, and so we gather all the papers, and start - ugh!

And we have a tour next week, so everything must at least look as though it is working, even though the tour will be at night. Oh, and I need to call our Dreamer to find out if that crazy idea that floated out on a mist of alcohol might have some reality. Maybe tomorrow?

Am I sensing a slight case of panic in this post ? After all I have all of tomorrow to do the presentation for Wednesday - if I forget a couple of things - like the meeting first thing in the morning, but that is about the budget so I had better go to that one.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Raw Days

The weather was cold and wet this morning and we headed off for Easter services and a triple Baptism after breakfast. Sitting in the pew behind one of the families I saw that the Baptism candles they were presented with had been made in Hong Kong. Nice candles mind, but it seems that almost nothing is being bought from American suppliers.

I talked with a friend who is rebuilding a barn, and he had gone out to buy an electric hand drill. All but one of the models were made in China. Of the security locks we were looking at that use fingerprint identification, almost all were made in China. What are American companies allowed to manufacture here ?

Today I transcribed Highland Great Pipe, lowland small pipe, border pipe and French pipe music. The problems with doing some of the foreign tapes I picked up, who knows where, is working out where the breaks are. There was a beautiful childrens choir from Prague, but they had run some songs together and I'm sure I totally failed to properly separate them.

Mum was fine, though the ex-Marine across the hall passed away this week. Her 11 am glass of sherry is now regularly appearing in her room again. And the Traveller will be there to see her next week, and me the week after.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

What, more Guilt?

Yep, he's done it to me again. Here I am trying to give some advice to Jimbo about taking off some time to smell the roses. And what am I doing?

Well after lying in bed until what I would call a disgraceful hour (except I think profgrrrl might object to the term) I spent the rest of today revising that report. (And posting to The Oil Drum ).

So here I sit, Milliadoiro's "Auga de Maio" is gently burbling away to my satisfaction, one of Jimbo's AU's is by my side, and I am re-reading David Weber's "March Upcountry" (and then all the others) before the new one in the series "We Few" shows up on my door next week.

In the greater scheme of things, my friends, what we old ferrets most regret in our later years, is spending too much time at work, but I have to confess that I would not apply that advice until you had tenure. And some of us never took it. And I write notes trying to dissuade faculty from doing that very thing in my real job. So what can I say? Maybe if I feel guilty enough I'll go and have another AU, . . . or two?


Friday, March 25, 2005

Hey, its only a report

The folk from Oklahoma had asked that I send the progress report by today and that I go down to present it next week. On Monday that was no problem, by today it had reached a serious issue.

Most of the week turned into budget discussions and on how we should protect our corner of the Universe. Do we go to card swipe or PROX cards, or fingerprints or handprints or face recognition, or encrypted keypads. So we had a couple of vendors come in (small hint to such, when trying to sell a product be aware that some of the audience at a University may do research in what you are talking so glibly about - no not me - some of the folk we had invited in). There is going to be a battle with our Purchasing Department no matter what we pick. And so an admission, since I am going to have to fight that battle, I could have appointed a faculty committee to make the decision on what we do. I did not, your very own local dictator sat, listened to the presentations, chatted with each individual who appeared to have any interest in the subject, and made a decision. Now all I have to do is survive.

The reason, incidentally for the haste, is to do with what is about to happen to our budget.

Yesterday I dropped into an Admin meeting where the Dauphin was making a presentation. He said some kind things, after noticing I was there, but somehow also conveyed the impresssion that I may have one of the larger egos on this campus, to which of course there is little in the way of effective response. Lots of this sort of administrivia all week. But the report had to be done. So I shut my door and worked on it, and except when I let someone in to have some coffee, which led to about five folk coming in one after the other before I could shut it again, I did, finally get that thing out in first draft. But tomorrow it must be revised, and so tonight the libations will be small, and the evening quiet. (But there will be some libations since we did, after all, get another contract today. And on the other hand the class this morning might as well not have happened).


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tada ! Tadee! Tadillyum ! Tralee!

Well the Advocate called just on 5:30 pm and his last interview was successful. So after medical school, and residency and fellowship he will finally move into a practice in the North East this summer. It sounds to be just what he was looking for and he is suitably ecstatic. As are we, and being vicarious enjoyers we have decided to go out and celebrate a little. After all this may be one of only very few occasions we may get to do this.

So goodnight report (though only quarter done) sleep well grading, rest quietly budgets (and tax returns) tonight we are going to savor the moment, smell the flowers, all that stuff. Grin, grin , grin.

Oh, and I never said I could carry a tune either!


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Divided personality

This has been another chaotic day at our corner of the campus. At the end of last week I thought that we were caught up on proposals, I had mailed the latest paper, and had only one quarterly report to prepare for our folks in Oklahoma, before heading over to Europe at the beginning of next month.

So I came in, and went to the Admin meeting, where I was informed of the size of our fraction of the upcoming budget cut. It was an ouch moment and would have been easier if we had that sort of money, but of course we don't.

Then I heard that our friends in Ontario had called last night and needed some data and a cost estimate today for a proposal for some new work. Which meant that the data had to be generated and with no-one else free ( not that I really was) off I went down after lunch and ran the test to get it, and our part of the proposal went over the wires at about 3 pm.

And then the Oklahoma folk e-mailed that they really wanted the report this week, and for me to go down there and present it next week. (A sickly grin appeared as I weakly agreed to do so).

Tonight was devoted to a couple of hours of recruiting and then a little change in this blog. It may have become apparent that just recently it has become more and more fixated on our upcoming oil crisis. Since that really wasn't why I started it, I was delighted when Prof Goose suggested we start a separate blog as a forum for that topic. So we did, and in future most of my posts on oil will appear at The Oil Drum. We hope to see you there.


Monday, March 21, 2005

A Slight Disagreement with Professor Cole

In reviewing the current situation in Iraq Tom Engelhardt discusses the "word that cannot be spoken" about the reasons for the war.He quotes Juan Cole on the American plans that intended the privatization of the Iraqi oil industry as a counter to OPEC dominance of the world oil supply.

I believe however they understate the situation. For while until recently Saudi Arabia were allowing that they could produce up to 20 mbd they are now admitting that they cannot. It is likely that as far back as the Vice President's Energy Group meetings four years ago that the Administration recognized the mess that we are now heading into. The only large supply that remained relatively untapped was the Iraqi one (recognizing, as the good Professor does not yet, that Saudi oil production is not going to be able to reach much more than 10 mbd given the declining production at Ghawar and the "Queen" fields).

In such a case with the Iraqi oil going to people like the Russians and the French, rather than to us, there had to have been a concern about long-term supply to the US. If they were aware, as due diligence would require that they were, that world oil supply was about to peak and then decline, then it makes sense to grab the last remaining large supply that had the potential to keep the world out of oil supply trouble until just about the end of the second Bush Administration. Unfortunately as Professor Cole points out, they neglected to consider that some of the Iraqi people might not take kindly to the concept.

Professor Cole sees the argument merely as one where the Administration was seeking to gain a counter to OPEC strength, in reality the goal was likely that of trying to ensure a source of oil, prior to the time that overall supply starts to diminish. Unfortunately with world demand having grown faster than anticipated, and with about half of the Iraqi potential still being shut in, the crisis has come a couple of years too early.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Cassandra's fate

There are times when you realize how we got to where are today, and where, very sadly, where we will be in six months. In part, it is because no-one either considers that the issue is real, or if it is they have a touching faith that some mythical someone is already aware of the problem, and will solve it with just some minor disturbance of the market.

You can bring up the problem of Peak Oil in conversation and slip in some numbers, and it's one of these "Yes, yes, but let me tell you about temperature when I got up yesterday (or some similar earth shattering matter)".
Bearing in mind that it now seems inevitable that this will hit, and relatively hard, before the next election, at first it seemed odd to me that no politician seemed to really be getting ready to ride this issue. But then it is a very uncomfortable topic, wthout any obvious answers. In this regard the topic lurks on the back pages of the dailies, and as I have commented, is occasionally aired by pundits on shows who hasten to assure us that things are well in hand (even as within a couple of weeks they are shown to be hopelessly ill-informed).

Now while I could mention how Winston Churchill was castigated right up until the moment he was disastrously proved right, I was more interested today to find out what happened to the original Cassandra. Despite her accuracy, she was raped, enslaved and murdered. Now that is an encouraging fate to contemplate if one were to speak up.

I was remiss in not noting the comments in the House by Congressman Bartlett (R-MD) last week who discussed Peak Oil for an hour, although he confused the issue a bit, I thought by including Jevons Paradox (which put simply in this context is that if we find a way of conserving energy, then as an unanticipated consequence we will also create additional ways of expending it that end up making us no better off). In this case I don't believe it will apply, although one could make a case that using more ethanol in gas might fit that bill. The Congressman is a physiologist, endocrinologist and an inventor.
In addition Congressman Gilchrest (R-MD) also spoke to the topic, and the potential benefits of alternate energy sources.


Sunday pm transcribing

Just to show how much more ancient I am than profgrrrl I note that the music slowly wending its way through the computer includes, this week:

Vangelis: Antarctica; The Mask; The best of Jon and Vangelis
Andreas Vollenweider: Down to the Moon; Caverna Magica; Dancing with the Lion; White Winds
Jeffrey Reid Baker: Everyone's Favorite Synthesizer Pieces
Gary Numan: Living Ornaments 80
Wyndham Hill Artists: A Winter's Solstice 3
Dr Demento: Christmas
Ravi Shankar: Inside the Kremlin

There is a new shop opened just down the road a spell and they cater to those of us who like slightly more exotic things. But alas they had no Earl Gray and so I had to compromise with First Flush Darjeeling and some Lychee Flavored black tea. They also had some small portions of imported cheese and while the Actress quickly snaffled all but a small morsel of the Italian cheddar, she left me the Gorgonzola - a good excuse to go and have some (and finishing it have an excuse to go back to the store for more such goodies).


The aches of age

It was cold yesterday, but being male, I put on a fairly light jacket to go and watch the St Paddy's Day parade. Well the wind got into my back, and so I will be moaning about this most of the week. (But only with the lower lip you understand, the upper one will be kept properly stiff).

We went on to a party in the afternoon, and (while I should have learned from a lesson a couple of decades ago) I may have sort of talked myself into accepting another commission. Well they have to decide if they can commit the money, and maybe get some other folk to go along with the plan, but this is where I started to get into trouble back then. It will be interesting to see how it progresses, but hard to remain anonymous if I blog about it much.

Mum was fine today though she told me the same tale three times. The home has been giving them a small glass of sherry at 11 am for the past three weeks, and then suddenly they stopped it at the end of the week. I suspect I may meander in there with a couple of bottles when I go over.

I have been doing the easy exercise tape for a while now, with lots of excuses for not switching back to the harder "The Firm" ones, but the need is there, and maybe they will help the old back, so . . .so. . . well maybe next time.


An insignificant vote

Well with all the controversy this week I meandered over to Unfogged which I had read some months ago, but dropped, and note that he is dropping Prof B from his blogroll. Not that it counts for much, but I actually prefer hers - so I guess I won't change mine.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Wheesht !

I think I will take my old Gran's advice and follow Dr. B's request from before the time to duck. In fact I think I will quietly tiptoe away and spend my weekend in the politically incorrect pastime (perhaps appropriate in the circs) of learning how to wear the Highland Great Kilt.
For those not aware of the difference to the more conventionally seen one, this came (from the Nurse) as a single 11 yard length of fabric and you have to pleat and fold it properly to get it not only around the middle but also over the shoulder. For us portlier folk it means we don't have to keep sending it off to get remade as we age less than gracefully. Yep it sounds like an appropriate thing to do.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Turn about and Russian oil production

There is a body of opinion that suggests that one of the main causes for the collapse of the Soviet Union was that the Saudi Arabian monarchy dropped the price of oil, thereby co-incidentally doing fatal harm to the Soviet economy, which was relying on the price it got for their oil exports to provide an underpinning to the economy.

Given that the world is now moving rapidly into the period where supply does not meet demand and where production is, in fact, peaking, one wonders if the current machinations over in Russia - where oil companies are being taken over and production is currently declining, might not be a little bit of Putin having learned his lesson and now taking his turn at tweaking us in a reversal of roles. After all he has little to lose, and a larger income to gain, and as for Western economic stability . . . ..


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Saudi admission on a lack of oil reserve

Well that didn't take long. The Saudi minister just commented on ABC News this evening that they are running out of light crude. And people are saying that they don't know why the price is going up! I think we might call this the Ostrich Syndrome. The Saudi government have been saying there ws no problem for years, and suddenly now, as demand starts to go back up -whoops! Er! Maybe they were overconfident!

I would suspect that predictions that demand will rise by 2.7 mbd this year are now just so much hot air. Because we are unlikely to see much more than a million barrel increase in supply over the course of the year. And that means it has become a sellers market, and the price will never be this cheap again!

This is a wierd feeling. Those of us who have looked at the numbers have seen Hubbert's Peak coming, and now it is very close to being here. There seems to have been little planning from a government being run by folk with a deep background in this industry. Yet having played Cassandra, and apparently going to be proved right, what is gained? We are now at a point where there are no known answers. One cannot create oil out of thin air, nor instantly legislate its appearance at a refinery. The Arctic Refuge oil will not be here for years and we need an additional source of supply by October. It is interesting to note that were the oil pipelines still flowing in Iraq then this problem might have been delayed for a year or two, but they aren't and it isn't. Well time to bury my head back in the sand, after all I will only be joining the MSM.


Unravelling numbers

Today's Washington Post contains the following quote on the OPEC decisions, giving some indication of where the anticipated increase in oil is anticipated to come from.

Global crude consumption is expected to hit 86.1 million bpd during the seasonal demand peak of the fourth quarter, up from 83.7 million bpd on average for the first nine months of 2005, according to projections from the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

Naimi said Tuesday Riyadh had already raised production by 250,000 bpd in anticipation of the deal with more to come next month. Kuwait said it would add 120,000 bpd in April.

Adding 2 million bpd from Iraq, exempt from a quota, total OPEC supply will be above 30 million bpd and close to September's 25-year production high.

What is interesting, apart from the fact that World demand is now expected to grow by 2.4 mbd (higher than earlier estimates) is that, if Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait have increased their overall production, and the rest are producing at their current maximum, then if the total is less than it was last September, then this recognizes that some of the other members of OPEC are seeing a decline in their overall production capabilities.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hubbert's Peak - was it today?

Glancing through The Energy Report I see that things seem to be coming together (or falling apart, depending on your point of view) faster than anticipated. It appears that the supply capability and demand curves may have finally met. What this means is that from now on demand is going to be only satiated by available supply. There is no longer a surplus, and so only by pumping more - up to total available capacity - can demand be met. And at the most that will take us only through the summer. In the same way that the Texas Railroad Commission became irrelevant so, today, it appears that OPEC may have reached the same fate.

The people who, before the New Year were saying that we were going to see $30 a barrel oil, and those who promised us only last week that we would be awash with oil are all proved wrong (but who will remember when next the media seek an expert?).

Now we really find out if the Saudi's are going to be able to deliver on their promises.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Decisions, decisions

Well, after the panel, I wandered over to Downtown Disney to eat, but even though the weather is not really pleasant it was pretty crowded with over half an hour wait at 3 different places - so I came back and had room service while listening to Aine Minogue's Mysts of Time.

We finished early so I am trying to decide whether to try and get a flight back tomorrow or stay until my due date back on Wednesday. The reason in part would be that I doubt I will be this way again. On the other hand it is not that much fun meandering around here alone. Then to argue the other side if I stay I can input one more time to the proposals due in tomorrow, while if I hurtle back I will be out of contact all day.

Decisions, decisions.


Oil policy explanation

Given that Reuters is reporting that the Saudi's want to raise production while most of the rest of OPEC does not, a quick visit to a table OPEC Oil Production which I list in my Oil Library, explains the differences. Most of OPEC are producing at full capacity, and thus if supply stays short, their price stays up. However Saudi with some reserve left to pump gains if they raise quotas, which allows them, along with Kuwait and UAE, to increase production. Remember demand is rising at around 150,000 bpd every month, and use that to gage the likely effects on oil prices.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Jimbo's Getting to Know you Meme

Above a rocky Scottish shore.
Milladoiro's "Todos Sus Grabaciones en CBS" as a disc, Beth Waters through iTunes.
Dishwasher. being lazy.
Irish bagpipes, but I would have to leave home
Royal Blue.
A sports car convertible.
Ask me again in 50 years.
Children of the New Forest
Knight Crusader
Most of the GA Henties (depending on your definition of children's books- I can't remember the young ones but Beatrix Potter and Rupert Bear were in there somewhere)
Only work and administrivia
A mirror and an escape ladder
Probably no-one
Jimbo at Cul de Sac.
Roses, friesias and crocuses and snowdrops at this time of year.
Shepherd's pie made with lamb.
Tonight they are grey with stripes
Fresh fruit and Eggs Benedict.
If only I didn't have to grade or deal with upset faculty and staff.
I'll take lots of highly intelligent, self-motivating, grad students and a steady and generous research budget, this is a dream, right!
Somewhere between 1 and 3 years from now. (But that is almost what I said this time last year though the second number went down one digit this time).
At a singles dance.
Ride in a balloon over the California Vineyards (or the French, I'm not picky as long as there are lots of samples aboard).


Trapped in Disney World

The flight down was about average, but after the $50 cab fare to the hotel, I wandered into the lobby and lo the machine that does the keys, or the controlling computer thereto, was on the blink. So as a result a bellman walked me to my room and until the machine gets fixed I suppose I should stay in.

So being the good blogger that I am I have added some references for info on Peak Oil. Some of the sites, such as "Life after the Oil Crash" (see the Breaking News page) and The Energy Bulletin are good sites to find comments on the developing situation from papers around the world. Not that I would disbelieve anything I read in the US press, you understand.

Others give broader picture backgrounds, and of these if you have the time some of Matt Simmons pdf files justify the time and space taken to download them - plus he has some nice pictures you can use to help understand some of the issues.


Could this be us next year?

Not too long ago the United Kingdom was sitting on lots of oil and gas and had few energy worries. Oil supplies are now in decline over there and The Telegraph reports that stocks of natural gas, which were supposed to be more than adequate, are running out. Another cold spell and industries may have to start closing. It appears that this is in part because the UK is sending gas to Europe which has supply problems of its own, with the largest reserve being in Russia and only being enough for 18 days. (And if that happens one wonders what it will do to Tony Blair's re-election chances, given that there may be an election there at the beginning of May - perhaps he left it just a little too late ?)

And OPEC seems to be producing nearly flat out. the only countries apparently with additional reserves are Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, if my memory serves, has about 300,000 barrels in reserve and the Saudi reserve is meant to be about 1 million barrels a day (mbd), though of a heavy sour crude. Well if demand is rising at about 150,000 mbd a month we will have used up the Kuwaiti surplus by the beginning of June. That would mean that we will find out sometime this summer just how much real reserve the Saudi can actually put onto the market. And of course this does not take into consideration the declining production that is taking place in most oilfields around the world.

Of course I had forgotten that I had mentioned the 1.5 mbd reserve over 2 months ago, and in the meantime demand has continued to rise. Thus as Business Week points out, we are already down to a total reserve of less than 1 mbd. The world uses about 83 mbd to put this in context.

A story in Reuters tells me that I forgot that the UAE has the capacity to also increase production by about 200,000 bd or just over 1 months increase in demand. The big question as the article points out is Saudi Arabia, and for more information on that you might want to download the pdf files from Matt Simmons.


All work and no play

Well the intent today was to go in and review the proposals for the meeting, post the comments and then tackle the White papers. To let you know how successful that game plan was it is now just past midnight and I just finished the proposals. Though I realized it was going to be a problem and so we had an emergency meeting this morning and I did one of the White papers, leaving a colleague to do the other two. There is always e-mail right, since they aren't due until late Tuesday.

So now I console myself with a glass (large) of Glayva - who for those who have never had it is a much smoother version of Drambuie. I like mine with just a smidgin of ice to cool it a little. I look at 3 tapes of Peter, Paul and Mary I was going to transcribe tonight - didn't get done.

I have 7 DVD's backing up the transcription to date - each has about 1,000 songs or about say 75 CD equivalents. I have 3 drawers full of tape (say 200 more CD equivalents) and 100 LP's left to finish if I can find out how to change the needle on the record player. Say in essence another 4 DVD's worth. 11,000 songs at 3 minutes is 550 hours or 23 days of playing 24 hours or 2 months of more regular time listening. And this doesn't include my current CD collection. Maybe I'd better start swopping out music from my iPod if I am going to give many of these at least one listen before I croak.

Speaking of croaking, the doc mentioned that I need to go on one of them fancy diets and exercise a lot more if I am not to prematurely become toast. But then that poses another question, doesn't it.


Friday, March 11, 2005

Another day, another dollar

Hmm well I see the experts are changing their song already. Reuter reports that the recent return of oil to $54 a barrel is due in part to a new belief that oil demand this year will rise by some 1.81 mbd. The world surplus of production over demand lies somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 mbd. This does make Thanksgiving look to be a more than usually interesting time this year. If you want to make that special trip, this might be the year. (There was an article I forgot to bookmark that also quoted a Saudi oil minister commenting that if the world expected them to supply to the levels the world anticipates in a decade or so then somebody had better get out and find the oil - first time they have admitted there is a limit as far as I know).

Well other than that little excitement this was a day of meetings. The man from the security company might have saved us all some time by coming prepared. So now we get another meeting in a couple of weeks, yet he is the approved supplier - Grrr!

I had to be a little unpleasant with a colleague today (that is two days running - its getting to be a bad habit). The difference between a contract and a grant is that there are certain deliverables at defined dates in the former case. We are falling behind that schedule and so I had to do a little bit more than gentle coughing (which is what I had tried - obviously ineffectively - last month). Hope this works, since something has to get done.

The four proposals got out, but I forgot I had 3 White papers due next Tuesday. Awkward since I am on a review panel and having spent tonight reading proposals, I need to enter my comments through the computer tomorrow and then fly off to parts south for the review panel on Monday. Which means I won't be here to get the white papers out. Guess tomorrow is going to be busy - there goes another weekend. Remind me, why am I doing this?


Thursday, March 10, 2005

When to move

As others talk about uprooting themselves from current jobs and consider moving on, so those of us at the other end of a career are thinking of when to hang it up. And today was a day when the incentives were a little stronger.

I managed to get all the information out for the four proposals by about 4:30 tonight and have the first phone call discussing one of them at 9 in the morning. But the things that went wrong and had to be corrected definitely got to me today. The grants office sent not only the proposal, but also my excel spreadsheet where I had worked out the budget, full of cryptic little notes to self, to one of the agencies. (Where I gather it was read with some amusement).

In another development one of my colleagues called and wants to give up on solving a problem that we are making progress on, and for which we are being paid money. He suggests as an alternative that I take it over. Somehow the conversation was not fruitful or pleasant.

I also got the budget justifications for all of the funds done. Will it make any difference? Not really, so while we need some of this for a rainy day, it might be better to get some of the items that we need now before our lords and masters come and take anything that is not tied down.

I do think I will withdraw my name for renomination to our society board. I just don't seem to have the energy and enthusiasm for it that I had even four years ago, and so it is time to step aside and let a younger more visionary soul take my place (we hope).


Catching attention

The other day I was invited, along with a motley crew of other faculty to make a short presentation to a group of students trying to decide which elective to take next semester. For some reason I got to go first and decided to stick around, eat the pizza and listen to the other faculty. We had 4 minutes each and could provide Powerpoint slides which could be included in the general handout. I not only sent the slides early but also took copies as handouts. I noted that only one other faculty did, and both of our piles were gone by the time we started talking.

I began with a small joke (the only other relatively self-deprecating talk was by another faculty slightly older than I). I showed pictures of what they could do with knowledge from my class (and skimmed without dwelling on them on the detail slides) and I finished on time.

Why bring this up? Because several of the junior faculty lost their audience almost immediately by going into great detail on course structure, grading policy etc and did not really explain the value (in whatever currency) of what they cover. And let's face it it was a bit of a competition. So we'll see how it turns out in numbers at the start of next semester. But it takes little more effort to send a couple of good Powerpoints for the compilation (you should have them in class notes already) than it does to provide relatively scruffy overheads that were hard to read by the third row (and the auditorium had people all over it).


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hubbert's Peak, and I are peaked

Jimbo asked what Hubbert's Peak is, so I hope you forgive the quick diatribe. King Hubbert (his name, not a title) was a petroleum geologist who realized that oil is a finite resource and thus developed a model to predict how long an oilfield would last. He gained lasting fame by predicting 15 years ahead of the time the year that US production would peak (that was 1970). He also predicted when world oil production would peak, and that would be right around now. (He actually predicted around 2000).

A retired Princeton faculty member called Deffeyes has written a couple of books, one of which came out yesterday, in which he simplifies the math and makes the odd correction. He concludes that the peak will likely hit around Thanksgiving of this year. Deffeyes points out that if the major oil companies thought oil production would continue to grow they would still be building more large oil tankers - they aren't. They would be building new oil refineries to meet the burgeoning demand - they aren't. etc.

Unfortunately today was one of those days where although we got 1 proposal through the door, one waiting for info and ready to send, one sent in draft form, and a presentation made to students on the wonders of the course I plan on teaching next semester, it left me so befuddled that I left my bag with book and laptop at work, so I can't quote the new book more extensively. He writes well though and while I think his first book was better, this is quite informative.

My apologies to Jimbo but with the lack of that computer I am also constrained tonight against being able to effectively link - otherwise I would link him, the Hubbert's Peak site and the book. Now that I know how to add a roll, I might add some sites to keep folk up to date on how dreadful it is going to be. Actually a lot of what is written is hyped out of all proportion, but my confidence in our national press on this issue, as you may have noted, is waning fast.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Nightline and bloggers

Well having commented about the Nightline coverage of oil last night, it was amusing to go back and watch them talk about blogging tonight. At the end I think we got a short lecture about bloggers having to earn respect and credibility. Well given my comments about their experts in the oil business I think that shoe should fit both sets of feet.

In many cases, outside of the strictly political, folk are blogging about things that they do know about, often to a considerable level beyond that of the standard reporter. Thus, and again this likely excludes the purely political blogs, there can be a much greater depth of knowledge behind an opinion. And this goes back again to my comments about last night's edition of Nightline. Because shows like that are more often focussed on political issues, they often expect that the solutions to problems will be political, and hence seek folk that are in their eyes experts, but with a political orientation.

I got Kenneth Deffeyes latest book on "Beyond Oil" this evening and note that he concludes that Hubbert's Peak will arrive this Thanksgiving. But his arguments are technical (and real) rather than political (and thus based on less concrete abstractions). He makes the point that the crisis is now coming upon us, but our political masters (particularly those with a successful history in the oil business) are apparently more concerned with ensuring that their friends corner all the wealth in the country (and thus the power) rather than making a realistic effort to find an answer. It is going to be an interesting six months.


Monday, March 07, 2005

Friday (?) shuttle

Hmm! I suspect my tastes are too old for this game, and I start late. So instead let me list the tapes that I have archived this weekend;
Dysart and Dundonald Pipe Band - World Champions
Iain Thomson - To a Working Collie (songs of a shepherd)
Richard Ormsby - Portrait of a Miner
Kathryn Tickell - Borderlands (Northumbrian small pipe)
Enigma - Love, Sensuality, Devotion
Kenneth McKellar - Highland Journey
Gaelforce Orchestra - From the Green Isle to the Land of the Eagle
Coro Degli Angeli - Misteros (Sardinian)
Marty Robbins - A Lifetime of Song
Shaun Davey - The Pilgrim
Odyssey - A Pipe Journey
Kabu Kei Tai - Bula Mei Beachcomber Island (Fiji)
Various - The Patter (Glasgow)
Wendy Carlos - Digital Moonscapes.

You have to dig out the nuggets from inside that list,and there are a good few. And after finishing the Earl Grey with Lavender, and the Earl Grey Regular, and the Earl Grey Rooibos, we now move on to the Majestic Earl Grey (which contains vanilla and blue mallow blossoms) - can't wait.


Nightline credibility on oil

Watching the story on Nightline tonight it is interesting how blindered the report seems. It is fairly clear from my earlier blogs and from articles that have appeared in the national press that world demand is reaching supply capabilities, just at the time that supply is peaking and starting to head over into decline.

Yet the experts that they have on seem to think that all that is required to get supply back into line is to jawbone OPEC, while they also feel that perhaps Chinese demand will magically stop increasing. Both of these are totally unrealistic. The Chinese demand increase, which any logical review would conclude has not even reached an equilibrium growth rate, given their current growing wealth, can only continue to go up since there are still major power shortages around that country. And OPEC folks is running at about maximum capability (and the world tanker fleet is fully occupied).

So the suggestion is that Congress do something (I blog as I listen) - what are they supposed to do ? If it ain't available, it ain't available. And you cannot legislate geology. All the innovative solutions take decades to have significant impact, and yes we have lost much of that momentum, but even if we switch R & D on, and we really desperately need to, it is too late to solve the problem in any realistic near-term future. We actually, short term, need to invest more in tertiary recovery of oil from fields that have produced in primary and secondary mode. And we should be doing more of the research to develop this. But we won't. And so the price will go over $75 this year, and probably will be over $100 next year. And since the end of this year will likely see Hubbert's Peak, then from then on it will really get ugly.

I don't believe this, one of their experts concludes by saying that within a year we will be awash in oil, based on oil projects coming on line around the world, and as a result prices will be way down. Sorry expert, but the cognoscenti have already reviewed all those projects and they don't cover the increase in demand and the declining production rates in older fields. Six month prediction from this old ferret is right in the last paragraph, and sadly if anything its optimistic.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Life ain't fair

Blogging has been light as, during this past week, we have been learning about the toy. A trainer came in on Wednesday and will be here for two more days, and so we have also been taking classes all weekend. And a thought came to me today. For while I will steer the overall direction of the research, it is the graduate students who will now be playing with it every day. and it ain't fair ( lie on the ground, shriek, and wave arms about) - I wanna play! I wanna play! I even sorta know how already.

But the reality is that, while I was in class, demands for four budgets arrived in the office, two proposals are due Wednesday, budget justifications are due tomorrow, security issues must be addressed by Thursday, current contract work must be invigorated, and as well as class I need to prepare a presentation to students on the joys of what I do for Tuesday. So I will probably miss the last two days of the class and step back into the shadows - Rabbits!

On another point those who have the power came around last week and I explained why both I and the Administrator needed our computers upgraded. (I was going to buy one from our funds as I have in the past, but every few years we get one from campus funds and I was about due). Well no guesses to realize who got her computer replaced this week and who did not.

Mum was fine today, but the press of events (plus a doubling of the fare) suggests that I put my trip over there off by a week.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Girl Scout Cookie Guilt

Both New Kid and Dr Crazy have talked about dining on Girl Scout Cookies. How can I confess the secret? I sneak all the boxes to the office and hide them so that, over the course of the year, I can sneak myself the odd 3-4 on particularly bleak days. (Which means a box is gone already this year). Sometimes I even have an old box still saved when I get the new ones.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Are we productive?

A quick comment from a wiser soul at this mornings meeting "The productive live, and survive, on the brink of Chaos." Problem is he didn't say on which side.


Lots of frustration

It is still very much the end of winter. There is still a fair amount of flu and illness here. The Administrator remains off and thus for a second day the morning was spent, possibly fruitfully, just talking to faculty and staff who dropped in to discuss problems and current campus politics.

Yes I know it is my job to listen, and I do, but I had grades due, and tomorrow a presentation on a major new potential source of funding, as well as a call due to Michigan and thus time is critical. But we do what we do, and so most of the morning I listened. This included one of my grad students, who is starting to worry about not getting a job when he graduates. I have a feeling in the latter case there is something else that is an issue, but all we can do is make encouraging noises and cope with whatever happens.

At the Admin meeting this morning I sounded off that cutting budgets beyond a certain point is seriously counter-productive in stopping faculty from getting out to make the contacts that are vital to long-term productivity. Yet when we have to make cuts it is going to be from those that have money, because that is what we need. Hence, in part, my push to get the security changed on the buildings now. We need it long term for a variety of reasons, and we have the money now.

Another meeting looked at upgrading computers, who can, when (over 3 years) and what happens to the old one. And there was a new wrinkle, who has Administrative privileges, ie. who can authorize programs and upgrades. That is a new one, and the new rule is that this will be centralized. Given that I and a lot of my wee enclave have other programs than the few centrally provided this is not going to work.

The net result of all this is that I finally got to work on my presentation for tomorrow (to be delivered 100 miles away at 9 am) at about 10:00 pm. Yeah for us.

I am too tired to be depressed, frustrated or just plain dispirited, and so to bed, and I still haven't called Michigan. Rabbits!

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